The Graceful Dorcas Gazelle
The Dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) is a fairly small and common and occurs throughout Africa, Arabia and northern India. The gazelle feeds on vegetation and can usually be found in grasslands, steppe, wadis, desert or semi-desert climates and is therefore quite easily spotted in Morocco. In fact, there are quite good populations of Dorcas gazelle in many of Morocco’s national parks.
The Dorcas gazelle in Morocco is closely related to the mountain gazelle, but it is smaller with longer ears and more curved horns. The Dorcas gazelle is easily spotted. Standing at about 53 cm in height, the body of this beautiful gazelle features a brown stripe above the white underbelly which is bordered by a sandy stripe. The top of the gazelle found in Morocco and other parts of North Africa are usually quite a dark reddish brown. The Dorcas gazelle’s face and forehead are always darker than the body, and the flanks may be quite dark too. These delicate, graceful creatures are a delight to behold.
What makes this creature truly special is the fact that it is so incredibly adapted to the desert. A Dorcas gazelle does not need water – it can draw all the moisture it needs from the plants it consumes. This does not mean that it never drinks water. The Dorcas gazelle consumes water when it is available. The gazelle is also well adapted to withstanding high temperatures and they tend to limit their activities during the heat of the day to conserve energy. They feed mainly on leaves, flowers and tree pods, but have also been known to eat twigs and fruit and can stand on their back legs to graze off trees. The Dorcas Gazelle can reach speeds of 80 km/h and move in a series of light, energetic leaps.
The Dorcas gazelle’s natural predators mainly take the form of cheetahs, leopards and lions, but there are few of these left to pose much of a threat. In fact, the biggest threat faced by the gazelle today is that of habitat encroachment since more and more of them die off each year due to expanding farmlands and other human developments. During the last part of the 20th century these beautiful creatures became extinct in many parts of Africa. In fact, the largest and most stable population was a group of about 1000-1500 gazelle which remained in Israel. Though the situation has since greatly improved, the Dorcas gazelle continues to be listed as a vulnerable species. For this reason every effort should be made to ensure the continued existence and preservation of this delightful desert creature.