Brief SummaryRead full entry
BiologyThe mountain gazelle lives in small groups of three to eight individuals, sometimes more. Their social structure consists of territorial solitary males, which stay and keep their territory all year round; temporary or quite permanent groups of one to several females with their young; and thirdly, small bachelor male herds (2) (3). Males vie for control of territories, but border conflicts between two neighbours are usually more ritualised than violent, consisting of “air-cushion” fights involving a series of head-on charges in which the contestants stop about 30 cm apart (3) (4). However, in battles between the present owner of a territory and a younger opponent attempting to take possession of his territory, males can inflict serious wounds to each other and even break opponents' legs (11). Males follow female groups passing or grazing in their territory. In Israel, acacia gazelles (G. g. acaciae) living in deserts can breed throughout the year, but there are two birth peaks: in spring (March - May) and in autumn (October), though most young of the autumn peak will die. However, during hot summers and cold winters females give birth very rarely (12). In Oman, these gazelles can also breed twice a year (8). In contrast, northern populations of Palestine mountain gazelles (G. g. gazella) have births later (April - June) than desert populations and mostly once a year (2). A female leaves a herd several days before birth and stays alone (together with her young) after the birth for up to two months. A single fawn is born after a gestation period of around 180 days, and can stand and walk shortly after birth (3). During the first weeks young spend most of the day lying curled up with eyes closed at their hidden location. The mother grazes nearby and guards her infant, attacking small predators (foxes) or trying to lead larger predators (jackal, wolf) away. From three to six weeks of age young gradually begin to accompany their mother and start to feed on solid food. The suckling period can last three to four months, rarely longer (2). While females may remain with their mother for life, males leave the maternal herd at around six months old to join a herd of young bachelor males (3). Females can first give birth at the age of one year, but two years is more common, and males can impregnate at 15 to 20 months, but in reality they rarely participate in breeding until they occupy their own territory at the age three years old. The life-span is 13 years in captivity and not more than 8 years in the wild (2). These gazelles are diurnal, though they may graze during moonlit nights as well, especially under pressure of intensive human activity where natural conditions are disrupted (2). Normally they feed at dawn and dusk and rest during the hottest part of the day (3) (5), but gazelles in high altitude barren plains near Ma'abar, Yemen, have only been seen by day, whereas those in the lowlands near Hodeid have only been seen at dusk and night (2). All subspecies are browsers, except for the Palestine mountain gazelle (G. g. gazella), which is a typical grazer. The diet comprises grasses, herbs and shrubs, depending on the habitat, but very few plants will be completely rejected (2) (3). This gazelle's distribution in the Arabian Peninsula and Israel is closely related to the distribution of Acacia trees, with the leaves and pods of these trees forming the bulk of the diet. Commonly they reach Acacia branches by standing on their hind legs and leaning on the trees with their front (2). Where water is scarce, gazelles improve their water balance by digging for bulbs, corms and other succulent subterranean plant organs (2).