The dama gazelle is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered antelopes (IUCN Red List status: Critically Endangered). Formerly common across its grassland habitats of the Sahelian zone of Africa, it now only exists in a small handful of tiny, isolated populations in Niger and Chad. With overhunting by far the major cause for its demise, the Dama gazelle is also prone to encroachment of its preferred habitats by livestock development and agriculture, as well by severe drought and desertification. In all, there are probably no more than 300 Dama gazelles in the wild today. The Sahara Conservation Fund has been working to conserve the gazelle for several years and the need for more nonintrusive ways of monitoring the presence and distribution of this highly vulnerable species are urgently required to formulate viable management plans.
In 2010, the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund generously awarded SCF $26,200 for the purchase and deployment of a grid of camera traps to help monitor and manage a significant population of the dama gazelle in Niger’s newly created Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve.
Hunters from the local population of Toubou pastoralists have been the gazelles’ main threat, with animals being shot opportunistically in ones and twos. Work with the herders and their leaders are, however, having a positive impact. Recognizing the value of working closely with the local people to conserve the gazelle, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute recently donated $10,000 to employ community game guards with a Dama gazelle-specific mandate to work with the local community. The two guards were recruited from among the local Toubou people to help SCF in its efforts to raise awareness locally about the plight of the Dama gazelle and serve as both ambassadors and protectors for the dama conservation effort. The guards provide a vital link between SCF and the local people and their activities include assisting in the installation and maintenance of the camera trap grids.
Source: SCF Sandscript, Oct. 2013