Indian gazelles, Gazella bennettii, are primarily found in the northwestern region of India in the state of Rajasthan. Their distribution extends from south of the Krishia River, as far east as central India, and into the north-central region of Iran (east of the Zagros Range and south of the Alborz). Sixty to 70 percent of the global population of Indian gazelles is presently found in western Rajasthan. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010; Dookia, 2009)
Indian gazelles can thrive in a variety of habitats. They have been observed in dry deciduous forests, open woodlands, and dry areas such as sand dunes, semi-arid deserts, and arid valleys that have an annual rainfall of 150 to 750 mm. Indian gazelles are facultative drinkers and can withstand relatively long intervals between visits to water points by conserving metabolic water and taking advantage of water found in vegetation. (Groves, 1993; Mallon, 2008; Rahmani, 1990)
Indian gazelles are characterized by a sandy, yellowish and red colored fur with a pale white ventral region. Facial markings are well developed: they have a dark brown or black forehead and a light face with dark stripes and a noticeable nose spot. Fur color varies seasonally. In the winter, Indian gazelles are a dark grayish sandy color, and there is a distinct brown band edging the white ventral area of the torso. In the summer, the fur is a darker brown.
Indian gazelles have straight horns with prominent rings and tips that are slightly out-turned. Horns are found on both males and females, although they are relatively shorter in females. Sub-adult males are hard to distinguish from females because of their intermediate horn length. Horns can reach lengths of 250 to 350 mm in adult males. Female horns are usually half the length of and thinner in width than male horns and have less prominent rings. Average male horn length of the subspecies Gazella bennetti fuscifrons and G. b. shakari is 256.6 mm. Females of these subspecies have an average horn length of 184.7 mm.
Indian gazelles reach 0.9 to 1.2 m in length and 0.6 to 0.8 m in height. Fully grown Indian gazelles weigh 20 to 25 kg. Females tend to weigh less than males and can be as much as 10 cm shorter in height.
The braincase is reasonably short and flat, with a long slender premaxilla that has a slight curve. The skull has large auditory bullae and teeth. The toothrows are bowed outward and incurved anteriorly. (Groves, 1993; Jerdon, 1874)
Indian gazelles are polygamous. Males are extremely territorial and defend their resources with their horns. Male-male competition is frequently observed during the mating season, and males aggressively defend females from other males before mating. Mating begins as a male gazelle touches the underparts of a female gazelle with a stiff leg, called “laufschlag.” When complete, copulation ensues. (Bobra, et al., 1992; Habibi, 2011)
There are two breeding seasons throughout the year, one at the end of the monsoon season from late August through early October, and the second in late spring from March to the end of April. Indian gazelles have a gestation period of 5 to 5.5 months. Females generally give birth to one offspring, but twins have been frequently reported. A majority of births occur in April. Offspring are precocial and are weaned at about 2 months of age, though they may stay with their mother for up to 12 months when she has another offspring. Female Indian gazelles first conceive when they are yearlings. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010; Habibi, 2011; Mallon, 2008)
Female Indian gazelles provide direct care to offspring until they are weaned at about 2 months of age. Some offspring, however, may stay with their mother for up to 12 months when she has another offspring. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010; Habibi, 2011; Mallon, 2008)
Longevity of wild Indian gazelles is unknown. One individual lived to be 12.3 years of age in captivity. (de Magalhaes and Costa, 2009)
Indian gazelles are swift and agile. They are generally frightened by humans and recede into the mountains or desert to maintain a distance from agriculture and other human activities. Indian gazelles inhabit broken country and rocky mountain settings in Pakistan, seemingly to avoid motorized vehicles. When alarmed, Indian gazelles stamp their forefoot on the ground and emit a sneeze-like hiss through the nose, hence the local name Chinkara (the sneezer).
Indian gazelles have nocturnal feeding habits and are most active just prior to sunset and throughout the night. They can withstand long periods without water due to physiological processes, conserving metabolic water.
Indian gazelles are generally observed alone or in groups of 3 that include a mother and her offspring. Large herds of 8 to 10 individuals are occasionally observed. Larger groups are more commonly observed during the breeding seasons. The largest herd recorded was composed of 25 individuals in July 1987 and was observed feeding on millet in a crop field during a drought when the monsoon season did not occur. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010; Bobra, et al., 1992; Dookia, et al., 2009; Dookia, 2009; Jakher, et al., 2002; Rahmani, 1990)
Little is known regarding the home range of Indian gazelles. They are thought to mark their territory with fecal piles. (Habibi, 2011)
When alarmed, Indian gazelles stamp their forefoot on the ground and emit a sneeze-like hiss through the nose. (Habibi, 2011)
Indian gazelles are better adapted to browsing than grazing, but they can consume legumes and grasses in large quantities. Their diet typically consists of grasses, various leaves, crops and fruits such as pumpkins and melons. A majority of their metabolic water intake comes from the vegetation they consume. The brush and trees that make up their diet are found in mountain ranges and deciduous forests, while grasses and other herbaceous plants are found in valleys and agricultural fields. In the arid Thar Desert, Indian gazelles mainly consume four species of herbs: Crotalaria burhia (42% of diet), Ziziphus nummularia (15%), Maytenus emerginata (11%), and Prosopis cineraria (9%). (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010)
The primary predators of Indian gazelles are golden jackals (Canis aureus), Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), Indian wolves (Canis lupus pallipes), Indian leopards (Panthera pardus fusca), Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), crested hawk-eagles (Nisaetus cirrhatus), village or feral dogs (Canis lupus) and, most importantly, humans. Hunting and illegal poaching have greatly reduced population sizes of this species. Indian gazelles use their speed and stamina to evade predators and use their horns for defense. (Bagchi, et al., 2003; Farhadiniaa and Hemamib, 2010)
Indian gazelles eat fruits such as pumpkins and melons and thus act as seed dispersers.
Hypoderma diana, a species of warbler, lays its eggs on the legs of Indian gazelles. When a gazelle licks its legs, the eggs are ingested. Larvae of Hypoderma diana emerge in the digestieve tract and create "warbles" or swellings under the skin. When the warbler emerges through the skin, it may injure the gazelle. Additionally, this decreases value of the hide to trappers. (Verma, et al., 2003)
Indian gazelles are considered sacred by the Vishnoi community of Rajasthan, which may contribute to larger populations in this area. Indian gazelles are also hunted for their skin, meat, and occasionally for horns, which serve as trophies. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010; Saxena, et al., 2008)
Indian gazelles occasionally feed on agricultural fields. (Arshad and Hussain Gill, 2010)
Gazella bennettii is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Indian gazelles were considered threatened in the 1950's due to habitat loss and anthropogenic activities such as hunting and poaching. Agricultural practices along with the general increase in human population has led to extirpation in certain areas.
In 1994 the species was considered vulnerable, and in 1996 Gazella bennettii was considered a species of lower risk. The species has since recovered and is now considered a species of least concern by the IUCN.
Gazella bennettii was considered a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India in 1972. Indian law fully protects Indian gazelles, reserving 80% of India as protected land, 5% of Pakistan and 9% of Iran. The Punjab Wildlife Act declared Gazella bennettii a protected species in the Cholistan Desert, which provides 26,000 km2 of habitat for this speices, and in the Punjab province.
There are over 25 protected areas within Rajasthan. However, the highest densities of Indian gazelles are found outside of these protected areas and parks, mainly within the Vishnoi communities. There are 6 major Indian gazelle conservation areas within the small district of Jodhpur, each with large populations. All protected areas have legal status as closed or non-shooting zones. The national parks of Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore are also protected. Populations of Indian gazelles have rebounded, mainly due to conservation efforts.
Extensive research on Indian gazelles has been conducted by the Ecology and Rural Development Society. This society observes and monitors identified clusters of gazelles, studies population dynamics, creates networks of volunteers for anti-poaching activities, and hosts local level awareness workshops. (Dookia, et al., 2009; Mallon, 2008; Rahmani, 1990; Sahajpal, et al., 2009; Saxena, et al., 2008)
There are several subspecies of Gazelle bennettii: G.b.bennettii, G.b.chiristii, G.b. fusciforms, G.b. karamii, G.b. salinarum, G.b. shikarii. The spelling and taxonomic classification of G. bennettii varies, as discussed in Rahmani 1990.
Dylan McCart (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
young are relatively well-developed when born
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Jakher, G., S. Dookia, B. Dookia. 2002. Herd composition and population dynamics of Gazella bennetti (Sykes,1831) in Gogelao Enclosure (Nagaur), Rajastan. Zoos' Print Journal, 17(11): 936-938. Accessed November 01, 2011 at http://www.zoosprint.org/ZooPrintJournal/2002/November/936-938.pdf.
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Verma, D., K. Puro, H. Singh. 2003. Warble (Hypoderma diana) infestation in Indian Gazelle. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences, 73(2): 171-172.
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