Atlas gazelle, Edmi, Mountain gazelle
Once abundant and widely distributed throughout North America, Cuvier’s gazelles have gradually lost most of their original range and population. Scattered populations of this species currently occupy fragmented remains of their former range. Cuvier’s gazelle is a horned antelope with greyish-brown overall coat. This animal is the darkest species of its genus. Females are distinguished by noticeably thinner and smoother horns.
By the early 20th century, this species was commonly found in Moroccan mountains, Algeria and western parts of Tunisia. Unfortunately, Cuvier’s gazelle faced a terrible population decline in 1932. As a result, in 1972, Cuvier’s gazelles had very small total population, restricted to the high Atlas Mountains. Nowadays, these animals occur in higher regions of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, where they are typically found in small herds. They are capable of living in a variety of habitats such as open oak forests, pine forests, open terrains, grasslands, vineyards as well as stony desert plateaus.
Habits and lifestyle
Cuvier’s gazelles display social behavior, forming small herds of less than 8 animals. These units are generally harems, consisting of a single mature male as well as a few mature females with their offspring. By the early mating season (July-October), some groups have additinal mature males, which are the newly matured offspring. They are driven out of the group, joining bachelor herds. In the beginning of winter, males exhibit highly territorial behavior, patrolling the home ranges of their herds and marking it with urine, dung or scent glands, located under their eyes. These animals show increased activity during the nighttime hours, when they come out of their shelters to graze in open valleys. Daytime hours, on the other hand, are typically spent in brushy habitats. Some populations of this species lead sedentary lifestyle, remaining in the same area throughout the year. Others display nomadic behavior, constantly being on the move. Meanwhile, there are populations that migrate to other regions.
Diet and nutrition
Cuvier’s gazelles are known to maintain herbivorous diet. These ruminant animals rely solely on vegetation such as leaves and grasses.
Cuvier’s gazelles are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. With the onset of the reproductive season, males of this species begin to display highly territorial behavior. Although Cuvier's gazelles may breed year-round, most breeding takes place in the beginning of winter. Females generally give birth in March-May and October. Both of these birthing seasons coincide with periods of increased rainfall. One or two fawns are born after 180 days of gestation. Then after the lapse of 10 days, the female can breed again. During the first few weeks of its life, the babies live separate from the herd, usually in a secluded place, hidden by foliage. At about 1 month old, they start eating solid food, but still feed upon maternal milk. Young females are ready mate at 7 months old.
Year-round, the peak in early winter
During the first half of the 20th century, these animals underwent a sharp population decline, which was primarily associated with excessive hunting for their skin, meat as well as for sport. The overall population of Cuvier’s gazelles is still decreasing because of habitat alteration with agricultural areas and grazing grounds for livestock.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Cuvier’s gazelles is estimated to be 1,750-2,950 individuals. This includes estimates for the species’ populations in the following areas: Morocco: 900-2,000 animals; Algeria: 560 animals; Tunisia: 300-400 animals. Currently, Cuvier’s gazelles are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.
Fun facts for kids
- When threatened, Cuvier’s gazelles usually flee. They also give special alarm signals such as a snorting sound or flicking of the tail.
- When alarmed, these animals move with the characteristic stotting gait: this is when an animal jumps, landing all four limbs simultaneously. According to scientists, this may be a display of their vigor and fitness, since in most cases, cheetahs stop hunting and turn away, when a gazelle starts stotting.
- Due to the sharp population decline, in 1932, this species was already among the rarest gazelle species around the globe.
- The natural range of Cuvier's gazelles extends north of the Sahara Desert. These animals are currently the only surviving species of their genus, native to this region.
- Gazelle species are able to survive long periods of time without directly drinking water. Instead, they get all required moisture from dew as well as plants that they consume.
- Gazelles are amazingly beautiful and elegant creatures.