Scientific Name: Nanger dama
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Quick Fact: Like most desert animals the dama gazelle ranges widely to find sufficient nutrition- a trait that makes it more vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and destruction
Learn More: visit the Sahara Conservation Fund to learn more about dama gazelle and other imperiled species of the Sahelo-Saharan ecosystems
Gazelles are small members of the antelope family, found primarily in Africa where they live in grasslands and savanna woodlands and feed on plants and grasses. The wild population of the dama gazelle is found in the Sahel, a vast arid grassland region associated with the Sahara desert. Dama gazelle live in small herds of 8-10 animals and are fleet footed runners to escape danger and predators.
The dama gazelle is considered critically endangered due to over hunting and loss of their habitat due to livestock competition. The last remaining wild dama gazelle populations are highly fragmented and there are few protected areas or formal measures in place to preserve the species and its habitats. The dama gazelle program at White Oak and in zoos is an important last holdout for the species as the wild population disappears.
White Oak has maintained a breeding herd of dama gazelles since 1983 and our staff has become experts in their care and management and we have had more than 270 gazelle births to date. We work closely with other zoos and participate with the Dama Gazelle Species Survival Plan, an AZA cooperative program to ensure the survival of the species.
White Oak is also working with organizations like the Sahara Conservation Fund and Conservation Centers for Species Survival to develop the potential to send dama gazelles born at White Oak for reintroduction to areas where they have disappeared.