30 Dec 2020

Arabian Gazelle – Farasan Islands

The Arabian Gazelle Gazella arabica until recently, was thought to be synonymous with its ecologically and behaviourally very similar sister species the Mountain Gazelle Gazella gazella which occurs in the Levant. Historically, G. arabica occurred continuously through the Arabian Peninsula, from the Arava Valley in southern Israel, along the Hejaz and Asir Mountains in western Saudi Arabia through Yemen and Oman, and into the UAE. In Saudi Arabia, since the middle of the 20th century, G. arabica numbers have decreased dramatically throughout their range. Small relict populations of G. arabica occur in Al Khunfah and Harrat al Harrah Protected Areas in the north of Saudi Arabia and on the Tihama coastal plain. On the Farasan Islands a strong population of about 850 individuals survives, the largest natural population in Saudi Arabia. The Arabian Gazelle is categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. On the mainland the species’ survival depends on a few remnant populations in the western mountains and coastal plains and on two reintroduced populations. The number of free-ranging gazelles on the Farasan Islands has remained approximately constant since the first counts in 1988, with an overall density of 0.64 km-2. The populations on two other islands, As Saqid and Zifaf, have not fared as well, possibly because of uncontrolled hunting pressure, competition with domestic stock or poor habitat conditions overall. The population on Qummah Island is extinct. Threats to this subspecies include uncontrolled hunting and uncoordinated development, although they are not major issue at present on the Farasan Islands. Continued protection of this apparently stable population of Arabian Gazelle in Saudi Arabia is imperative to ensure the survival of the species. The coat colour of G. arabica is very variable, but is always some shade of buff. The face-markings and flank stripe are generally well expressed, and the face-markings always show a broad, smudgy black nose spot making the animals fairly easy to identify. We went looking for the Arabian Gazelles with the help of the Saudi Wildlife Authority rangers. The weather had been very wet and the tracks to the area where the gazelles are most numerous were soft. Luckily the rangers know exactly hoiw to drive in such conditions and took us in their vehicle to see the animals. Here we saw 17 animals running over the rough ground or resting under the acacia bushes out of the heat. The best time to see them is early morning 06:00 hrs or in the afternoon after 16:00 hrs. 
Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

Arabian Gazelle

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