New at the Zoo: Critically Endangered Addra Gazelle

The Oklahoma City Zoo is pleased to welcome three male Addra gazelle to its animal family! Their names have special significance, relating to their individual personalities while paying tribute to the species’ native lands. Two-year-old Obi’s name is Yoruban for “heart” since he has a heart-shaped white patch of fur on his chest; one-year-old Takitti’s name means watermelon because gazelle will often eat melons to stay hydrated; and two-year-old Jabari’s name translates to “the brave one” in Swahili which is fitting since he is the leader of the herd and the first to investigate new situations.

The new arrivals are located in the hoofstock area west of the giraffe yard, directly across from the African painted dogs. Although the OKC Zoo has had a number of gazelles species throughout the years, Addra gazelle have not been at the Zoo since the 1980s.

When people think about gazelle, the first image that comes to mind is often the scene from Disney’s The Lion King featuring what appears to be an endless horde of gazelle sweeping through the safari. For Addra gazelle, the largest and tallest of the gazelle subspecies, that picture is far from reality. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates fewer than 250 Addra gazelle remain in the wild, and that number is declining due to poaching and farming/ranching activity. The species is native to the Sahara desert region of Africa, from Sudan to Mauritania, and they are herbivores, eating a diet of herbs, shrubs and scrubby desert grasses.

Zoo guests should keep their eyes peeled for a unique behavior exhibited by gazelles called “stotting” or “pronking”. This occurs when gazelle get excited and jump repeatedly with legs straight and rigid; landing on all four legs at once. This habit may communicate alarm, serve to give the animal a better view, or intimidate a potential aggressor.

Training is an essential component in introducing any animal to a new habitat. Zoo caretakers established a relationship based on trust with the gazelles and part of that was to allow them time to adjust to their temporary habitat yard and barn space before giving them access to their new larger habitat yard. This allowed them time to get use to all the sights and sounds of the Zoo like the train, tram, visitors, zebra, ostrich and giraffes.

The addition of the Addra gazelle was the result of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommendation.

-Tracey Dolphin-Drees, hoofstock assistant curator

Photo provided by Andrea Johnson

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