Sunday, October 22, 2017

Goitered or Persian Gazelle

The goitered gazelle (gazella subgutturosa), also known as the black-tailed gazelle, has three subspecies. There is also a separate species which was previously considered a subspecies. 
A male.

A female.
The Persian gazelle (Jeyran subgutturosa), one subspecies, is found mainly in Azerbaijan and Iran. The Turkmen gazelle (gazella [subgutturosa] gracilicornis), another subspecies, is found primarily in Kazakhstan with small populations in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The Mongolia or Yarkand gazelle (gazella [subgutturosa] yarkandensis), the other subspecies, is found primarily in northwestern China and Mongolia. The sand gazelle (gazella [subgutturosa] marica), a separate species, but previously considered a subspecies, is found in Saudi Arabia, and parts of Syria, Iraq, UAE and Oman. The IUCN Red List which does not differentiate between the subspecies, lists the goitered gazelle as vulnerable and estimated 120,000 to 140,000 in 2001, but populations have decreased since then by at least 30% due to illegal hunting and habitat loss. Mongolia was thought to have a population of 60,000 Yarkand gazelle, but it has probably been reduced by half since then. There are also still good numbers of Yarkand gazelle in the Tarim Basin of Xianjiang China. There are still reasonable numbers of Turkmen gazelle in Kazakhstan, but it is approaching extinction in Turkmenistan. The Persian gazelle has become extinct in Armenia and Georgia (except for a small herd just reintroduced), but there are an estimated 20,000 in Iran, all in protected areas, and 4,000 to 6,000 in Azerbaijan, mostly in Shirvan National Park and a small population in northern part of Azerbaijan. Animals from Shirvan NP have recently been introduced into four sites in Azerbaijan and into southeastern Georgia.   

The best article I could find on the goitered gazelled is found here. Subguttarosa, means "full below the throat," and refers to a goiter-like enlargement males have on the larynx during breeding season (September do December).
The goiter-like lump is visible on this male we saw.
Males are larger than females and females are generally hornless. The black horns on males are close together at the base and curve away from each other. 
This is a fuzzy photo, but does show the shape of the horns from straight-on. 
The horns seen on a male walking away from us. 
The horns on what appears to be a small male (right). 
They have long ears and large black eyes. Their color varies over their range from white to brown with shades of red, gray and yellow. They have a relatively short tail colored dark brown or black. 
The face color fades with age and is often white. 
These gazelles, the first we saw inside the park, appeared darker and more striped than those we saw later. It may have just been lighting.
By contrast, this gazelle has very little in the way of black markings. 
They run at very high speeds without the leaping and bounding gait found in other gazelle species. 

In a recent visit to Central Asia I arranged to have our guide take us to Shirvan National Park, about 60 miles southwest of Baku, Azerbaijan, toward the Iran border. Shirvan was established in 2003 primarily to protect the goitered gazelle. It is in an area about 65 to 80 feet below sea level which used to be covered by the Caspian Sea. The gazelle is a real success story there. There were only 131 of them there in 1961, but they now number 8,000. In researching the gazelles before our trip, I found them referred to as Caspian gazelles (as they are near the Caspian Sea), Azeri gazelles (as they are found in Azerbaijan), Jeyran (the scientific name) and the Caucasian gazelle. 

Shirvan opened at 9:00 a.m. and we had to wait a few minutes for a guide from Shirvan to join us in our Mercedes van.
This monument at the entrance features a gazelle on top.
Our van just inside the main gate. 

The gazelle is featured on the national park seal.
We drove slowly down the one main park road, mostly paved, initially, but rutted, then dirt and it branched in various directions. We drove to a small man-made water area which we were able to observe from the top of a small building there. The water area gets flamingos that visit, but they are more prevalent in December and January. 
This water feature gets flamingos later in the year. 
We saw quite a few gazelles along our drive. They were usually quite distant. When they were relatively close, when we got out for photos, they usually scampered away quite quickly. 
These gazelles at some distance.
Some gazelles a little closer, in typical terrain. 
But we had a number of instances where they were relatively close to our vehicle. 
One, in particular, was impressive. It set out on a gallop parallel to our vehicle, and went at incredible speed for a long distance. 

1 comment:

  1. My favorite thing was the last thing you mentioned--the gazelle streaking across the field at incredible speed. Wow!