Endangered Gazelles of Algeria

Algeria’s nature reserves and protected areas are home to a wide variety of animals, among which are three species of gazelle considered to be endangered in the country by the IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature. These are the Dorcas gazelle, Cuvier’s gazelle and slender-horned gazelle. Nature lovers traveling in the Saharan desert of Algeria should be sure to keep an eye out for these graceful desert-dwellers.

Found only in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, the Cuvier’s gazelle (Gazella cuvieri) is one of the smallest and darkest colored of all gazelle species. Its average height is 60-69 cm at the shoulder, weighing around 35 kg. It is thought that the darker coloring of the Cuvier’s gazelle is due to its preference for wooded habitats, where it generally spends the daylight hours. The Cuvier’s gazelle is easily identified by a band of dark colored hair running along its sides, separating its white underbelly from its dark brown back. With their long, slender ears, the male and female of this species are very similar apart from the fact that the male’s horns are more pronouncedly ribbed and are larger. Although the Cuvier’s gazelle is a protected species, its numbers continue to decline, primarily due to loss of its habitat and food resources, as well as illegal hunting.

The Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is a small gazelle species that stands at a height of around 55-65cm at the shoulder and weighs between 15 and 20 kgs. There are six subspecies of the Dorcas gazelle, all dwelling in arid regions where they are able to survive their entire lives without access to a water source. Although they are known to drink when water is available, Dorcas gazelles derive the moisture they need from their food, which includes grasses, leaves, flowers, twigs, seed pods and fruits. They are able to tolerate very high temperatures, but tend to forage and browse for food between sunset and sunrise when it is cooler.

Small populations of the slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros), also known as the sand gazelle, are found in the deserts of Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Eqypt. As is the case with the Dorcas gazelle, the slender-horned gazelle is well adapted to surviving without water, deriving their moisture requirements from their food. Habitat loss, warfare and hunting have all contributed to the decline in numbers of all of these gazelle species. Hopefully conservation efforts will prevent them from becoming extinct in the vast North African country of Algeria.