RZSS WildGenes Blog: Desert Gazelles in Danger

November 6, 2015 § Leave a comment


Last week I was involved in a number of meetings in Morocco on antelope conservation. The conservation situation for antelope in the Maghreb and Sahelo-Saharan region “North Africa” is extremely serious and RZSS WildGenes has had a long-term involvement in contributing basic science and genetic management recommendation for a number of these species to try and improve their conservation prospects in the wild and captivity. There are seven North African antelope species in total, all of which are listed as being Vulnerable or worse according to the IUCN red-list of threatened species.

Scimitar-horned oryx ready for transfer from Souss-Massa National Park, to another centre in Morocco. Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild, but there are large numbers in captivity. RZSS WildGenes is involved in generating genomic data to improve global management of this species with a number of partners world-wide.

Scimitar-horned oryx ready for transfer from Souss-Massa National Park, to another centre in Morocco. Scimitar-horned oryx are extinct in the wild, but there are large numbers in captivity. RZSS WildGenes is involved in generating genomic data to improve global management of this species with a number of partners world-wide.

The first stop for the week was conservation planning for the Endangered Cuvier’s Gazelle organised by the IUCN-Med, bringing together expert and stakeholders across the Maghreb region and Europe to thrash out a status review and plan of action for this mountain dwelling species. We often don’t even know basic things like how many animals there are or how important different threats are (in the case of Cuvier’s gazelle overgrazing, poaching, feral dogs all play their part). Without this information it is hard to implement and evaluate conservation actions with a scientific basis. We were also then lucky enough to visit the Souss-Massa National Park to see the work Le Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification is doing to conserve addax (Critically Endangered), scimitar-horned oryx (Extinct In The Wild) and dorcas gazelle (Vulnerable).

Association Nature Initiative https://www.facebook.com/Association.Nature.Initiative radio tracking dama gazelle in Safia Reserve. They work round the clock to monitor the release site and implement many other conservation projects in the area.

Association Nature Initiative, radio tracking dama gazelle in Safia Reserve. They work round the clock to monitor the release site and implement many other conservation projects in the area.

In the second part of the week I travelled to the region of Dakhla, in the far west of the Sahara, to see the recent release site of the Critically Endangered Dama gazelle at Safia Reserve. RZSS has been involved in conservation action planning and genetic analysis support for this species for a number of years. Fewer than 300 dama gazelle are likely to be left in the wild and fewer than 1,500 in captivity. The world’s remaining animals are spread across various isolated populations and breeding centres, which means that genetic information is crucial for making management decision about captive breeding and transfer of animals in the wild. Further information about the dama gazelle can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/damagazellenetwork/home.

Through our continued involvement with antelope genetic management, the team at RZSS’s WildGenes laboratory hopes to be able to do our bit for the conservation of these undervalued species and their fragile desert ecosystems. More updates will follow soon!

Dr Helen Senn
RZSS WildGenes Programme Manager

Dama foot-prints heading off into the distance at Safia reserve. This is the first full release of this species into the wild and monitoring of its success will be vitally important to conservation efforts for this species globally.

Dama footprints heading off into the distance at Safia reserve. This is the first full release of this species into the wild and monitoring of its success will be vitally important to conservation efforts for this species globally.

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