09 August 2014

Arabian Sand Gazelle at Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area – Near Taif

To enter the Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area you have to have special permission with the Protected Area entirely fenced and the all gates locked. Entrance to the Protected Area is trough one of the five ranger stations scattered around the Protected Area to ensure no unauthorized people can enter. We were very lucky to gain permission to enter the Protected Area and be shown around and are extremely grateful for the access. The National Wildlife Research Centre (NWRC) have reintroduced Arabian Sand Gazelle to the Protected Area with over 800 animals present that are incredibly difficult to get close to. The numbers are the maximum for the species in the Protected Area showing the successful nature of this reintroduction that is a great credit to the Saudi Wildlife Authority and the NWRC. We saw many animals in our day in the Protected Area and although almost all were seen at a distance running we very luckily saw one in the middle of the day resting very close under an acacia type tree. I managed to take a couple of reasonable photos of this animal before it ran off.

Arabian Sand Gazelle or Reem Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa marica is one of four subspecies of goitered gazelle and is found only in the Arabian Peninsula. They are smaller and lighter than other goitred gazelles with males standing 56 centimeters tall at the shoulder and they can weigh up to 22 kilograms with females being slightly smaller weighing up to 18 kilograms. Both sexes have long, curved, lyre back horns, with those of the male longer, broader and more curved than the female. They inhabit the desert and semi desert areas of their range and feed on grasses, leaves and young shoots. During summer they graze largely between dusk and dawn, digging shallow pits, where the earth is cooler, in which to rest. Breeding occurs from September to January. The Arabian Sand Gazelle is in decline due to illegal hunting, expanding agriculture, competition for food with livestock and fragmentation of habitat through development. Males do not live more than 6 years in the wild, while females can live up to 12 years. They can eat 6 kilograms of vegetation a day and most of their water needs are gained through the plants they eat. To keep cool and reduce water loss via the body, desert gazelles can store body heat during the day, without panting or sweating and release it at night.