Addra gazelle are the largest members of the gazelle family and range naturally around the Sahara Desert in northern Africa. Unfortunately, this desert-adapted species has disappeared from most of its natural range, and only a few hundred individuals exist now in isolated habitat fragments, making the addra gazelle critically endangered. To combat this problem, many members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are working together to build a successful addra gazelle Species Survival Plan® program. Currently, about 20 AZA facilities house approximately 200 animals, comprising a security population with which we can bolster the global population while also learning more about the biology of this unique species.
At the Oklahoma City Zoo, we care for a herd of three addra gazelle: Archeron (male, 3 years old), Amaya (female, 4 years), and Magpie (female, 5 years). While caretakers have noted that our herd displays complex, species-appropriate reproductive behavior, the gazelle have not produced any offspring that could help sustain the species. To address this, Zoo staff and volunteers have begun a collaborative research initiative to (1) measure and characterize the reproductive hormone cycles of our herd, and (2) correlate breeding behavior and activity budgets with reproductive physiology.
To do this, caretakers meticulously collect and organize gazelle fecal samples, from which we can measure hormonal metabolites in the lab to generate information about our animals’ reproductive cycles. In conjunction with this, a dedicated team of volunteers observes our gazelle herd frequently, noting how much time they spend engaging in various behaviors, including feeding, moving, and socializing with each other.
While it is important for our breeding efforts to understand the reproductive physiology of our animals, it can be resource-intensive to do so for a long time. We hope to identify behavioral signatures of reproduction, which would be much easier and cost-effective to monitor the breeding activity in our herd. Furthermore, what we learn can be applied to the broader AZA addra gazelle population, making a long-lasting, positive impact for the species. This project is truly a cooperative effort between animal caretakers, researchers, and volunteers to do our part to help in the conservation of the critically endangered addra gazelle.
Zoo guests can see our addra gazelles at their habitat located across from Predator Pass and near the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.
- Dr. Chase LaDue, Postdoctoral Fellow in Animal Behavior
Photo credit: Logan S.