By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Gazelles are believed to have become extinct in Jordan due to hunting and the destruction of their natural habitat, according to an ecologist.

The Kingdom used to be home to different kinds of gazelles, but spotting one in the wild nowadays has become a rare occurrence, Ehab Eid, coordinator of field research at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), said on Saturday.

“This situation requires surveys of areas that gazelles used to inhabit to see if some can still be found in order to reintroduce this species and protect them,” he added.

Gazelles are known as swift animals – some are able to maintain speeds as high as 80 kilometres per hour for extended periods of time. Gazelles are mostly found in the deserts, grasslands and savannas of Africa, but they are also found in southwest and central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. They tend to live in herds and eat less coarse, easily digestible plants and leaves, according to web sources.

“Three kinds of gazelles were registered in Jordan, including the Dorcas Gazelle, referred to as Afri in Arabic, the Goitered Gazelle, called Al Reem in Arabic, and the Mountain Gazelle or the Arabian Gazelle,” the ecologist said.

The Dorcas Gazelle used to live in Wadi Araba, in Wadi Feynan in particular. It is believed that this species has become extinct in Jordan, as it was last recorded in the early 1980s, Eid said.

The animal is a small and common gazelle, with a height of approximately 55-65 centimetres and has long ears and curved horns. It survives on vegetation in grasslands, steppes, valleys, mountain deserts and in semi-desert climates of Africa and Arabia, according to web sources.

The Goitered Gazelle, which used to be found in the Rweished area and Qatraneh in the eastern desert of the country, is also believed to have become extinct in Jordan.

It is so called because the male has an enlarged neck and throat during the mating season. The Goitered Gazelle inhabits sandy and gravel plains and limestone plateaus, according to web sources.

The Goitered Gazelle usually lives within herds of 50-100 heads, according to Eid, who noted that its social behaviour is the main reason behind its reducing numbers.

The Arabian Gazelle has also become extinct in Jordan, the researcher said.

“The Salt mountains used to be the natural habitat of the Mountain Gazelle, which has also become extinct in Jordan as it was last recorded in the mid 1980s and the animal had been killed,” Eid noted.

The researcher underscored that overhunting of the animal and the destruction of its natural habitat led to its extinction in the Kingdom, highlighting the need for programmes to reintroduce it into the wild.