Powell, OH – The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed the newest resident to the Heart of Africa region on Saturday with the birth of a dama gazelle. The calf, who appears to be a male, is the first dama gazelle to be born at the Zoo.
This newborn is the third calf for mother, Layla. Mother and calf are doing well and are bonding off-exhibit within the region. It is not expected that the calf will make his debut prior to Heart of Africa closing for the season on Nov. 2.
Dama gazelles are critically endangered and the rarest of all gazelles, so every birth is special and important to the survival of the species.
Currently, there are approximately 130 dama gazelles in North American institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and fewer than 300 in the wild. These animals have been disappearing as their habitats are ruined by livestock overgrazing, land development and over hunting. Their native range is in one of the poorest regions of Africa, where little conservation action has been taken.
But reintroduction efforts are likely within this species, making every new birth especially exciting. The Columbus Zoo keepers expect that other dama gazelles are breeding, with hopeful births next spring. Dama gazelles typically give birth to only one calf at a time, after a gestation of five and half to six months.
The dama is the largest of all gazelles, with adults weighing up to 165 pounds. They have a white body with reddish brown features – which can vary by region, the animal’s age and season – and both sexes have s-shaped horns. They might live in mixed herds of 10 to 20 animals or lead solitary lives.
Like other gazelles, the dama may exhibit a pronking behavior in the wild to communicate with other members of the herd. This involves hopping from all four limbs, which appear to leave and touch the ground at the same time. The calves can run as fast as the adults in as little as a week of age.
In the wild, they are found in isolated areas of Chad, Mali and Niger.