Algeria’s Wildlife: Dorcas Gazelles

Found throughout Algeria and its neighboring countries, the Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Its population is in decline primarily due to habitat loss and being hunted by humans – an activity which is illegal as the Dorcas gazelle is protected by law in Algeria. Visitors to Algeria’s protected areas and national parks are likely to spot these attractive gazelles, with their fawn-colored coats, white undersides, large ears and beautifully curved horns.

As Dorcas gazelles are very well adapted for living in the desert, they are able to obtain all the moisture they need from the plants they consume. They will drink water if it is available, but are able to go their entire lives without doing so. They feed on flowers, leaves, seed pods, fruit and twigs, sometimes standing on their hind legs to reach the tastiest treats. They have even been seen digging bulbs out of the ground to eat.

Although they can cope with very high temperatures, Dorcas gazelles are seldom out in the heat of the day as they take shelter under shrubs and trees. It is thought that this helps them to avoid both two- and four-legged predators. If they are in danger, Dorcas gazelles can run at speeds of up to 90 km/hour in an attempt to escape predators. They run in bouncing leaps and zig-zag to avoid being an easy target.

Dorcas gazelles generally live in family herds consisting of one adult male accompanied by several females and their offspring. Males tend to be territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Mating season is from September to November, and the gestation period is six months, with one fawn being born, although twins do sometimes occur. The newborn fawn is quite well developed, with open eyes and covered in fur. The fawn spends its first two weeks of life curled up under vegetation, in a hollow scraped in the ground, with its mother close by. It will later start following its mother around and eating solid food, being fully weaned by three months of age.

Certainly, these graceful animals are a welcome sight when exploring the great outdoors of Algeria, and thanks to conservation efforts Dorcas gazelles are likely to be around for future generations.

Picture attribution: Frithjof Spangenberg (Wikimedia Commons)