Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata)

Also known as: goa
French: Gazelle Du Tibet
Spanish: Gecela Del Tibet
GenusProcapra (1)
SizeHead-body length: 91 - 105 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 54 - 65 cm (2)
Weight13 - 16 kg (2)

The Tibetan gazelle is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata) is a small and slender gazelle with a compact body and long, thin limbs. It can vary in colour from a sandy coat in winter to grey in summer. The Tibetan gazelle has white on its belly and a white, heart-shaped patch on its rump, with a short tail that is tipped with black on the top (2).

Also known as the goa, the Tibetan gazelle has no distinct facial markings, but it does have elongated hairs on its muzzle that create a slight tuft underneath the eyes. Its eyes are large and its ears are tall, narrow and pointed. The Tibetan gazelle has wide, rounded hooves and dewclaws (2).

Male Tibetan gazelles have slender, ridged horns that are relatively straight with just a slight arch (2).

The Tibetan gazelle is native to China and India. Although over 99 percent of its range lies in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of China, populations do also occur in small areas of India neighbouring the plateau (1).

High altitudes seem to be preferred by the Tibetan gazelle. It will graze in wetland margins, but lives mainly in high-altitude plains, hills and plateaux (1) (2), with the presence of herbaceous (non-woody) forbs being an important feature of its habitat (2).

The Tibetan gazelle is found at elevations from 300 to 5,750 metres (3). In the summer, small groups of Tibetan gazelles will gather into larger herds and migrate to higher pastures (1).

The Tibetan gazelle is a ruminant, meaning it has multiple chambers in its stomach, initially processing food in the first compartment (the rumen) before regurgitating, re-chewing and then re-swallowing it. Digestion is then completed in the rest of the stomach chambers. Not much research has been carried out into the diet of the Tibetan gazelle, but it is believed to feed mainly on forbs and legumes (2). This species tends to avoid grasses and sedges (3).

Although the Tibetan gazelle is generally found in small groups, there are reports of larger groups occurring. However, these are either considered to be misidentifications or just temporary aggregations. Male and pregnant female Tibetan gazelles are often found as solitary individuals, the females separating themselves from the herd to find a safe place to give birth and hide their newborn for its first two weeks of life. The female Tibetan gazelle usually gives birth to a single offspring at a time, after a gestation period of about 5.5 to 6 months. Most births occur between July and early August (2).

Male Tibetan gazelles tend to live at lower elevations, where they establish breeding territories, while females ascend to higher elevations. The females join the males at the lower elevations in early autumn for the breeding season. Groups of male Tibetan gazelles will begin to break apart as the rut approaches, and mature males start to establish breeding territories, usually in December (2).

In its native China, the Tibetan gazelle is mostly threatened by rangeland development and the subsequent loss of habitat (1) (4). Increasing numbers of domestic livestock are also an issue as they compete with the Tibetan gazelle for food, while fencing for livestock and other rangeland uses restricts the Tibetan gazelle’s ability to access food and cuts it off from its natural range (1).

Increased road building has allowed humans to access areas that were once remote, causing the gazelles to lose more grazing areas. The Tibetan gazelle is also hunted for meat and for trophies such as its head and horns, and this hunting, often illegal, is cause for concern (1).

The population of the Tibetan gazelle in the region of Ladakh in India is particularly at risk. Severely reduced by hunting in the past, it is continuing to decline due to intensive livestock grazing, and may also face threats from feral dogs and from diseases transmitted by livestock. The Tibetan gazelle population in Ladakh may now number only around 50 individuals in an area of just 100 square kilometres, while populations in some other parts of India have recently become extinct (4) (5).

There is a good network of protected areas on the Tibetan Plateau, and the Tibetan gazelle occurs in Chang Tang, Arjin Shan, Qomolangma, and Sanjiangyuan nature reserves (1). The Chang Tang Nature Reserve, at 300,000 square kilometres, is the second largest reserve in the world (3). The Tibetan gazelle is listed as a protected species in China (2).

The Tibetan gazelle requires urgent conservation action in Ladakh, where it is on the brink of extinction (4) (5). A recovery programme outlined for the Tibetan gazelle in this region includes restoring its habitat, reintroducing the species to areas in which it formerly occurred, addressing the problems associated with livestock grazing, and removing feral dogs. It will also be important to work with local communities and to raise local awareness of the Tibetan gazelle and its plight (4).

Conservation measures for the Tibetan gazelle are hampered by a lack of information about its biology and about the exact causes of its decline, so further research is needed if effective conservation strategies are to be established for this species (2) (4).

Find out more about the Tibetan gazelle:

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
  2. Leslie Jr, D.M. (2010) Procapra picticaudata (Artiodactyla: Bovidae). Mammalian Species, 42(861): 138-148. Available at:
  3. Groves, C.P. and Leslie Jr, D.M. (2011) Family Bovidae. In: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.) Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2: Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. Bhatnagar Y.V., Seth, C.M., Takpa, J., Ul-Haq, S., Namgail, T., Bagchi, S. and Mishra, C. (2007) A strategy for conservation of the Tibetan gazelle Procapra picticaudata in Ladakh. Conservation and Society, 5(2): 262-276.
  5. Bhatnagar, Y.V., Wangchuk, R. and Mishra, C. (2006) Decline of the Tibetan gazelle Procapra picticaudata in Ladakh, India. Oryx, 40(2): 229-232.