The chinkara (Gazella bennettii) is a gazelle species native to Asia. Gazelles are known as swift animals. Appreciated for their grace, gazelles are a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty.
Chinkara have a reddish-buff summer coat with smooth, glossy fur. In winter their coat becomes lighter, almost white. The reddish color of their coat helps them to hide better in the grassland from predators. The sides of their face have dark chestnut stripes from the corner of the eye to the muzzle, bordered by white stripes.
Chinkara are native to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. They live in arid plains and hills, deserts, dry scrub, and light forests.
Chinkara are very shy creatures and avoid human habitation. Most of the time they spend alone, however, can sometimes gather in small groups of up to four animals. Males are territorial and will chase other males away from their territory. These gazelles are very agile; they run in leaps and bounds and can jump up to 6-7 meters in height. When feeling threatened, they will stamp their forefoot and produce a sneeze-like hiss through the nose. Chinkara prefer to feed at nighttime and are most active just before sunset and during the night.
Little is known about the mating system of chinkara. During the breeding season, males compete with each other for females, which may suggest that these gazelles are polygynous. Chinkara breed twice a year, in late August-October, and then again in March-April. Females usually give birth to a single calf after the gestation period that lasts around 5 or 5.5 months. Calves are born fully developed and are nursed for 2 months. They may stay with their mother for up to 12 months when another calf is born. Females in this species become reproductively mature at 1 year of age, while males attain reproductive maturity when they are 2 years old.
The major threat to chinkara is overhunting for meat and trophies in Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Another serious threat is habitat loss due to agricultural and industrial expansion, and overgrazing.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of chinkara is around 50,000-70,000 mature individuals. There are also estimated populations of this species in the following areas: in India (in 2011) there were more than 100,000 animals with 80,000 animals living in the Tahr Desert; in Iran - around 1,300 animals. Currently, Chinkara are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but their numbers today are decreasing.
Due to their habit of eating fruits, chinkara may play a very important role in their ecosystem as seed dispersers.