The largest gazelle (40-60 kg) with two-tone white and rusty red pelage. Extent of red colouration quite variable but broadly linked to morphological differences between the three recognized races: neck in the eastern race N. d. ruficollis, neck, shoulders and upper back in the central race N. d. dama and neck, shoulders, back and flanks in the north-western race N. d. mhorr also known in English as the mhorr gazelle. In general, eastern damas (also known as ‘addra’ or red-necked gazelle in English) appear smaller, more slender and paler, whilst those of the north-west are heavier, with darker and richer red colouration. Prominent white neck spot in all races. Lyrate horns present in both species, with those of the male heavier and strongly annulated.
Dama gazelles live in small herds of 5-10 individuals, occasionally forming larger groups during seasonal movements or when drawn to areas of fresh grazing. Gestation period around 6.5 months with one young born. Calving appears synchronised with improved grazing following rainy season (July-September). Feeds on a wide variety of browse, including Acacia, Maerua and Balanites. Grasses such as Panicum and Aristida also eaten, as well as legumes and wild melons. Water independent.
Sahelian and peri-Saharan grasslands and Acacia woodland. Remaining isolated populations pushed into rather marginal, atypical sub-desert and rocky refuges. Once commonplace on the fixed dune systems of the Sahel, often in association with scimitar-horned oryx and dorcas gazelle. Forays into sub-desert terrain during wet and cold seasons.
Formerly a broad band of sub-desert habitat stretching from the Nile Valley in the east to northern Senegal, Mauritania and southern Morocco in the west. Distribution north of the Sahara poorly known. Occupation of central Sahara made possible in and around mountainous areas with better vegetation. Currently restricted to small isolated groups in marginal habitats in eastern Mali (Tamesna), central and eastern Niger (Aïr, Termit), and western Chad (Eguey).
Critically endangered with possibly fewer than 300 left in the wild in small highly isolated groups. Like most Saharan ungulates, victim to combination of over-hunting, drought and habitat loss. Appendix I on both CITES and CMS conventions.
IUCN Red Data List (2010): Critically Endangered.
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