Scientific Name

Nanger dama

Species Survival Plan



Desert, dry land


Cheetah, Cape hunting dog, lion, leopard, hyena, jackal and man


Acacia, bush leaves, herbs and grasses

Originally Native To

Sahara and Sahel of Africa


42 inches at shoulder


Male 125 lb.
Female 90 lb.


Antelope with bright white coat and reddish brown neck; S-shaped horns

Gestation Period

5 - 6.5 months


1 calf

Birth Season

August - October


Wild 12 years
Captivity 19 years

Social Behavior

Herds of 10 - 20



Formerly one of the most prevalent Saharan gazelle when it was widespread in arid and semi-arid regions of the Sahara, this antelope is the largest gazelle species. Even so, it is the second-smallest hoofstock species at Fossil Rim after blackbuck.

Extinct in much of its original range, the dama gazelle is now a critically endangered species with a decreasing population trend living in small fragmented herds in Sudan and Chad, likely comprising a total population of less than 100 individuals.

During the wet season, they migrate north to the Sahara. In the dry season, they return to the Sahel, or dry land of Africa, in their smaller groups.

Hunting has been the major cause of decline, especially after the introduction of motorized vehicles and high-powered rifles. Dama habitat has become much more arid in recent years due to climate change. Overgrazing by livestock has also contributed to habitat deterioration.

In Chad, the scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction project has had a positive impact on the populations of gazelles living in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve since it was implemented there in 2016, thanks to an increased control on some poaching activities in the area. Even though they are relatively safe, there is still a need to improve their monitoring.

The dama gazelle is diurnal and requires more water than its desert neighbors, although it can survive long periods of drought. Dama gazelle are able to obtain most of their water from the plants they consume. Their diet includes various desert shrubs and acacias, along with rough desert grasses.

They are highly nomadic, ranging extensively in search of food and water. They may stand on their hind legs in order to reach leaves above normal browsing height.

Both males and females have horns. They curve back and up, but reach a length of only about 17 inches. The male's horns have 18-23 distinct rings and smooth tips, while the female's horns are typically smaller, thinner, and the rings less distinct.

Dama stand about 39 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 190 pounds.

Males reach sexual maturity at around one year and females around one-and-a-half years. The gestation is approximately six-and-a-half months, resulting in a single offspring. Twinning is very rare.

Gazelle can often be observed bouncing into the air with all four hooves off the ground at the same time. This behavior is called stotting.

The life span of the dama gazelle is unknown in the wild. In human care, individual males have lived up to 15 years and individual females have lived up to 19 years. At Fossil Rim, they live in the Buffer Pasture - the second pasture you enter.



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As a private nonprofit corporation, Fossil Rim does not receive national or state government support. Every cent spent or donated here goes in some way, directly or indirectly, toward the care of our animals.