Al Ain Zoo in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is managing a controlled breeding programme for two endangered subspecies of the Dama gazelle – the Addra and Mhorr gazelles – Wam reported. There are over 80 Dama gazelles in the zoo.
The Dama gazelle, a native of the Sahara and Sahel regions of northern Africa, has three recognised subspecies. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has listed the Dama gazelle as Critically Endangered. The Mhorr sub-species is believed to be extinct in the wild, with the last known sighting in 1968, while the Addra sub-species is extremely rare.
Al Ain Zoo is the only zoo in the world that has the Mhorr and Addra subspecies, and the zoo now places priority on conservation of the species. It has a Dama Gazelle Conservation Strategy, 2019–2028, which it does in collaboration with specialists and officials from the animal’s range states in Africa.
Elements of the strategy,including collecting and updating information about numbers and locations of Dama gazelles in the wild, the delineation and implementation of strategies to reduce the threat of their extinction, and through captive breeding programmes. It also includes planning for potential reintroductions of captive-bred animals, including the study of potential locations for reintroductions, along with genetic studies.
Uncontrolled hunting, habitat loss and overgrazing has led to the disappearance of Dama gazelles from over 99 per cent of their former range. There are reportedly only around 100 Dama gazelles in the wild.