03 October 2020

Mountain Gazelle or “Idmi” – Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area

Whilst in Mahazat As-Sayd Protected Area we came across a single Mountain Gazelle, known locally as Idmi, with a radio collar. This is a medium sized gazelle with distinct facial markings, a side stripe, and long limbs. Although both sexes have horns, those of the female are smaller. The taxonomy of gazelles is notoriously complex, and several classifications have been proposed. Three species have been reported from Saudi Arabia: Saudi Gazelle Gazella saudiya (now extinct), Mountain Gazelle Gazella gazella (widespread in the Arabian Peninsula) and Arabian Gazelle Gazella arabica (known only from a specimen collected in the 1820s on the Farasan Islands in the Red Sea). Recent genetic research has questioned this arrangement. Lerp et al. (2013) indicated that G. gazella in fact consists of two clades, one in the north centred on the Golan Heights, and a southern clade covering the rest of the former range. Bärmann et al. (2012) demonstrated that G. arabica had been misidentified and the specimen was in fact G. gazella. These authors, therefore, proposed a nomenclatural change, preferring to use the name G. arabica for the southern clade of G. gazelle including the former subspecies G. g. cora and G. g. farasani. Small relict populations of Arabian gazelles used to occur in Al Khunfah and Harrat al Harrah in the north of Saudi Arabia and on the Tihama coastal plain in Wadi Hali 80 km south of Al Qunfidah and near Al Farah. On the Farasan Islands a strong population of about 880 individuals survive. Most records of natural Arabian gazelle populations in Saudi Arabia originate from the western part of the Kingdom, i.e. the Asir, Sarawat and Hejaz Mountains. Historically, Arabian Gazelles occured in Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area in central Saudi Arabia but their loss was attributed to anthropogenic and other Pressures. Since their presence was confirmed via interviews with local people and historical records the Strategy and Action Plan of the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) suggested the re-introduction of captive bred Arabian Gazelles. The release is part of the ongoing efforts in the Kingdom to conserve a variety of antelopes, an initiative that is strongly supported by the Saudi people. The reintroduction of the Arabian Gazelles was undertaking with the following goals: (a) to re-establish wild and self-sustaining populations of Arabian Gazelle in Saudi Arabia; (b) to study the most suitable habitats and establish protected areas in which vegetation can recover; (c) to manage the re-introduction of herds in protected areas; (d) to re-introduce in suitable habitats; and (e) to study the ecology and biology of gazelles in the protected area. Numbers of Mountain Gazelle remain low in Mahazat Al Sayd but with good management the species should prosper in the fenced off reserve.
Mountain Gazelle or “Idmi”