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Seminar on the Conservation and Restoration of Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes. Djerba, Tunisia, 19-23 February 1998.
UNEP, Convention on Migratory Species

Report on the status and perspectives of a species :

    Gazella cuvieri

    Cover drawing: J. Smit, in Sclater and Thomas, 1898. Reproduction: 
    M.O. Beudels.

    Report prepared by René-Marie Lafontaine, Roseline C. Beudels-Jamar, and 
    Pierre Devillers. Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique.

This report is based on documents prepared for the Convention on Migratory Species by Pierre Pfeffer (1993b, 1995) and on supporting documents for the action plan on Sahelo-Saharan antelopes adopted by the 4th Conference of the Parties of the Convention, documents that were prepared by Roseline C. Beudels, Martine Bigan, Pierre Devillers and Pierre Pfeffer (1994). The information it contains originates mainly from the fundamental work of De Smet (1989, 1991), Loggers et al. (1992), and Cuzin (1996). It is completed by a new review of the literature and a survey of actors in the field conducted in 1996 and 1997 by Tommy Smith (1998). Marie-Odile Beudels, Tommy Smith, Yves Laurent, Chris Kerwijn, Isabelle Bachy, Olivier Noiret and Pierre Stassin have contributed to the preparation and finalizing of this report.

1. Taxonomy and nomenclature

1.1. Taxonomy.

Gazella cuvieri belongs to the Antilopini tribe, of the Antilopinae sub-family within the Bovidae family, which includes about twenty species in the genera Gazella, Antilope, Procapra, Antidorcas, Litocranius, Ammodorcas (O'Regan, 1984; Corbet and Hill, 1986; Groves, 1988). The genus Gazella comprises one extinct species and from 10 to 15 surviving species, usually divided into three sub-genera, Nanger, Gazella and Trachelocele (Groves, 1969, 1988; O'Regan, 1984; Corbet and Hill, 1986). Gazella cuvieri is generally included in the sub-genus Gazella and considered a monotypic species (O'Regan, 1984; Corbet and Hill, 1986). Groves (1969) treated it as a northern representative of the Sahelo-Sudanese gazelle Gazella rufifrons, but later (Groves, 1988) he confirms, on the contrary, its isolation in the genus Gazella, and makes it the only element in one of five groups into which he divides this difficult genus.

1.2. Nomenclature.

1.2.1. Scientific name.

Gazella cuvieri (Ogilby, 1841)

1.2.2. Synonyms.

Antilope corinna, Antilope cuvieri, Gazella vera, Gazella cineraceus, Gazella kevella, Dorcas subkevella, Dorcas setifensis

1.2.3. Common names.

French: Gazelle de Cuvier, Gazelle de montagne
English: Cuvier's Gazelle, Edmi Gazelle, Edmi, Atlas Mountain Gazelle
Arabic: Edmi, Ledm

2. Biological data

2.1. Distribution.

2.1.1. Historical distribution.

Cuvier’s Gazelle is a species endemic to the folds of the Maghreb. It reached the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast in certain localities (e.a. Ben Slimane and the Ajou Mountains). In Morocco, it occupies all the mountain chains (eastern Rif, Great Atlas, Middle Atlas, and Anti-Atlas, and Aydar south of the Drâa) and the associated plateaus with the exception of the western Rif. In Algeria it occupies or occupied the slopes of the tellian chains, those of the more southern massif formed by the Saharan Atlas, and the massifs in the eastern part of the country (De Smet, 1991). In Tunisia it occupied the area from the Ridge to the region of Tunis, and the pre-Saharan massifs (Sclater and Thomas, 1898; De Smet 1989, 1991; Kowalski and Rzebik-Kowalska, 1991; Loggers, 1992; Kacem et al., 1994; Cuzin, 1996). De Beaux (1928) notes the discovery of a Cuvier’s Gazelle horn in Al Jaghbub, in the east of Libya, specifying that its source was unknown. It is the only mention of the species for the country and this presence could not be confirmed by any other information. In 1994, six Tunisian Gazella cuvieri were introduced into the Kouf National Park in the north of Libya (De Smet pers. comm.). In this report, Libya is not, however, included in the historical range of the species.

2.1.2. Decline of the range.

In Morocco, the range of Gazella cuvieri, which covered the whole of the mountain chains and associated plateaus, diminished considerably in the first half of the 20th century; in the 1960’s, it disappeared from the region of Rabat and Casablanca, and the last observations in the region of Figuig date from the 1970’s; it disappeared from several localities in the Middle Atlas at the same time (Cuzin, 1996).

In Algeria, it occupied the slopes of the tellian chains, those of the more southern massif formed by the Saharan Atlas, and the massifs in the eastern part of the country (Tristam, 1860; Loche, 1867; Pease, 1896; Joleaud, 1929; Heim de Balsac, 1936). It disappeared from a large part of the tellian Atlas to the east of Teniet el Had, but it was still noted on the Mediterranean coast until about 1930 (Joleaud, 1926; Lavauden, 1929; Seurat, 1930).

In Tunisia, where it occupied the area from the Ridge to the region of Tunis, and the pre-Saharan massifs, it was still fairly abundant in 1936 in the entire Tunisian Ridge from the Algerian border to the Djébel Bou Kornine 17 kilometers south of Tunis (Kacem et al., 1994). The species no longer survived in the 1970’s except in the vicinity of the Djébels Chambi and Khchem El Kelb between Kasserine and the Algerian border (Kacem et al., 1994).

2.1.3. Residual distribution.

If until the recent past, the general distribution of Cuvier’s Gazelle had not changed much in relation to its historical range, the species is now in sharp geographical decline in Morocco (Cuzin, 1996); it disappeared from the northeast (eastern Rif) during the 1980’s, and it also disappeared from numerous localities around Agadir in the 1990’s (Cuzin, 1996). Its range has equally been fragmented in the Saharan Atlas. Recent discoveries, confirming older data, made it possible to localize substantial populations and extend the range towards the south between the lower Drâa and the Aydar massif.

In Algeria, the range of distribution of Cuvier’s Gazelle is limited to the northern part of the country: it is not found either in the north of the tellian Atlas or in the south of the Saharan Atlas. The species has only recently disappeared from a few localities and these are mainly in the north of its range of distribution. The populations of the western tellian Atlas, Batna-Biskra, and the Aurès mountains are no longer contiguous, and some groups of the Saharan Atlas were recently eliminated (De Smet et al., in press).

In Tunisia, after having reached very low numbers, the population currently seems to be increasing and is spreading out again (Kacem et al., 1994), essentially as a consequence of the efficient conservation measures implemented in and around Chambi National Park. For the Ridge in general, observations made in 1991 in the region of Siliana indicate that it is progressing towards the northeast, mainly from the principal population core in the surroundings of the Chambi National Park.

2.1.4. Recolonization prospects.

This species is mobile and can rapidly recolonize sites occupied in the past insofar as passages remain possible, in particular if calm zones with waterholes exist between the sites. The Tunisian project of fixation of the species and natural recolonization has had good results, and the Tunisian Government proposes continuing the implementation of a network of protected areas in which installation measures similar to those applied in the Khchem el Kelb Reserve will be taken to encourage the redeployment of Cuvier’s Gazelle along the full length of the Ridge. In Morocco, the recent localization of substantial populations in the south between the lower Drâa and the Aydar massif opens up new, interesting prospects for the conservation of the species in Morocco.

2.2. Habitat.

Cuvier’s Gazelle appears connected to the middle and low slopes of the folds in the Maghreb, occupying the relatively dry forests of semi-arid thermo-Mediterranean type dominated by Pinus halepensis, Juniperus phoenicea, Tetraclinis articulata, Cedrus atlantica, Quercus ilex, Argania spinosa and perhaps, before their destruction, Olea europaea, with an undergrowth of maquis or garrigue which can be relatively thick or relatively open, and often includes Rosmarinus officinalis, Phyllirea angustifolia, and Globularia alypum (Sclater and Thomas 1898; De Smet, 1989, 1991; Karem et al., 1993; Kacem et al., 1994). It also frequents steppes of Stipa tenacissima and Artemisia herba alba (De Smet, 1991; Karem et al., 1993). These forests were formerly much more widespread (Le Houérou, 1986); steppes of Stipa tenacissima constitute the first stage of substitution and have themselves greatly regressed (Le Houérou, 1986).

2.3. Evolution and evaluation of populations.

Current figures

In Morocco, the total population is currently estimated at between 500 and 1500 individuals (Aulagnier et al., in press) including a population of several hundred individuals recently rediscovered in the lower Drâa (Cuzin, 1996).

In Algeria, a study of the distribution and numbers of the species carried out at the end of the 1980’s estimated the population at 445 individuals (Sellami et al., 1990); De Smet in 1987 estimated the population at minimum 400 individuals and perhaps 500 (De Smet, 1987); in 1991 his estimates were of 560 individuals of which 235 in the tellian Atlas (sites 1 to 5 in the table below), 140 in the Saharan Atlas (sites 6 to 12, 14 and 15), 135 in the east (sites 16 to 19), and 50 in the central group of the Mergueb (site 13) (De Smet, 1991); the table summarizing the distribution and numbers of Gazella cuvieri is taken from De Smet (1991):

1     Sidi Bel Abbes-Tlemcen-Telagh
2     Saida 
3     Mascara
4a   Tjaret Frenda
4b   Dj. Nador
5     Ouarsenis Mountain
6     El Bayad - Brezina
7     Aflou-Laghouat
8     Ain Sefra-El Abiod Sidi Cheik
9     Bechar-Taghit
10   Djebel Senalba (Djelfa)
11   Dj. Sahari Hunting Reserve
12   Guelt es Stel
13   Mergueb Nature Reserve
14   Bou Saada
15   Dj. Bou Kahil
16   South Aures (including 
       Beni Imloul and Barika)
17   East of Biskra
18   Nementcha  Mounts
19   Forests of Tebessa


50 individus 20




In Tunisia, the number of Cuvier’s Gazelles is not known with precision; currently, the main population in the region of Chambi National Park is estimated at 300 individuals (Kacem et al., 1994), and the total population is at least a little higher. The species is found, in fact, in 13 hunting reserves and massifs, listed below (Kacem et al., 1994):

1     Dj. Khchem el Kelb
2     Dj. Serrraguia
3     Dj. Gaubeul
4     Dj. Tamesmida
5     Dj. Dernaia1
6     Dj. Chambi
7     Dj. Semmama
8     Dj. Seloum
9     Dj. Es Sif
10     Dj. Hamra
11     Dj. Bireno
12     Ain Bou Driss 1re Série
13     Oum Djeddour
2900 ha (RF 300 ha)

10000 (6723 PN)
82400 ha

There is no precise figure on the former numbers of Cuvier’s Gazelle, but it was reputed to be common and locally abundant (e.a. Heim de Balzac, 1936). Harper (1945) cites Cabrera who mentioned it in 1932 as particularly numerous in the central part of the Middle Atlas , the territories of Beni Mguild and Ait Aiach, and the length of the contact line between this chain and the High Atlas. Also in 1932, Carpentier notes that it was formerly abundant in the Zaian district near Sidi Lamine and Khenifra (central Morocco).

2.4. Migration.

The migratory movements of Cuvier’s Gazelle are hardly documented at all. Joleaud (1929) mentions erratic movements and a certain nomadic life.

3. Conservation status, by country

Morocco: endangered

The state of conservation of the species in Morocco was described recently by Cuzin (1996), on the basis of data found in Loggers et al. (1992), completed by new data gathered by the Water and Forest Service, by his personal observations, and by the observations of resident and visiting naturalists; it is primarily these recent data which are used here. The species seems to have been extinct since 1985 in northeastern Morocco. Its range of distribution was greatly reduced in the Ida massif or Tanane, north of Agadir, where it would even seem that the species disappeared in 1993, following a local drought of several years. The species was discovered on the southern gradient of the eastern Middle Atlas, towards Outat Oulad El Haj, as well as on the High Plateaus, slightly more south. Some small groups were also seen on the southern gradient of the central and eastern High Atlas, from the region of Ouarzazate to that of Rich, reaching an altitude of 2600 meters south of Imilchil, where the species is clearly transhumant: numerous testimonies indicate the presence of the species in summer, and its absence in winter. The species was discovered in the Jbel Saghro, where it seemed abundant in 1981, rare in 1991, and from where it seems to have disappeared at the present time.

In the Sahara, a group of three animals was observed south of Foum Zguid, in 1994. In 1995, the species was found in the entire region situated from the Drâa Wadi, at about a hundred kilometers upstream from its mouth, to the last reliefs northeast of Smara in the Aydar. This confirmed older data (Morales Agacino, 1949; Aulagnier and Thévenot, 1986) and pushed back the southern limit of known distribution to about sixty kilometers towards the south (Cuzin, 1996).

Algeria: endangered

The state of conservation of the species in Algeria was recently described by De Smet (1989, 1991) and De Smet et al., ( in press), and it is mainly these recent data which are used here. In the northwest of the country, Cuvier’s Gazelle is much more widespread than what was thought. Almost all the large national forests of Aleppo Pines (Pinus halepensis) shelter small populations and there are contact zones between the majority of these populations. It is also relatively common in the hills between Mascara, Relzane, Tiaret, and Frenda, living there in open countryside with a mosaic of grain crops, vineyards, and pasture lands at the top of the hills. In the Saharan Atlas, most of the summits which are higher and less disturbed still harbor small groups of Cuvier’s Gazelle, the most substantial one of these being near Djelfa (Khirreddine, 1977). The most recent information indicates that some of these populations are growing. The most eastern populations are found in the Aurès, the Némentcha mounts, and the hills near the Tunisian border. Near Tebessa there is a concentration of Cuvier’s Gazelles, which move to and from the Chambi National Park in Tunisia.

Tunisia: endangered

In the 19th century, Cuvier’s Gazelle was present in all the Tunisian mountains, especially in the high chains of the Ridge in the region of Kasserine, in the northern chains of the Ridge near Ghardimaou, Tunis, and Zaghouan, and in the southern pre-Saharan chains around Gafsa and Tamerza. Its range of distribution had considerably decreased until the 1970’s, before the Forest Office took energetic measures, and the numbers had fallen very low. Important measures of habitat management for Cuvier’s Gazelle, combined with measures to protect the species, have recently enabled the Tunisian Forest Office to greatly improve the state of conservation of Cuvier’s Gazelle; the objectives of the Tunisian program aim to naturally recolonize the historical range of distribution.

4. Actual and potential threats

The species has declined over the whole of its range of distribution owing to the increase in human pressure, essentially in the form of direct takings, but also because of the transformation of wooded zones into grazing ground and agricultural land.

4.1. Degradation and decline of habitats.

The degradation and decline of habitats is mainly due to the continuous expansion of pasture land for livestock and the deforestation for agriculture or charcoal. As a consequence, the numbers have been severely reduced and the range fragmented. This cause was identified, at least in Morocco, as the main threat at the present time (Aulagnier and Thévenot, 1986). The vast majority of natural forests have now been destroyed and it is not sure that Cuvier’s Gazelle can adapt to plantations of rapid-growth pines. Gazella cuvieri seems less tolerant of disturbance than Gazella dorcas.

4.2. Direct exploitation.

Hunting and excessive takings have strongly contributed to the decline of the species. Even though its preferred habitat ensures a better protection against hunters in vehicles than the other species of North African gazelles (De Smet et al., in press), it is still subject, at least locally, to high poaching pressure. Its population has thus been reduced, in certain isolated localities, to a few dispersed groups.

5. Regulatory provisions

5.1. International.

Bonn Convention: Annex I, resolution 3, 2, 4.
Washington Convention (CITES): Annex I.

5.2. National.

Completely protected in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco

6. Conservation measures, per Party or by country

6.1. Ban on takings.

The species is protected legally and can not be hunted in Morocco since 1958, in Algeria since 1975, and in Tunisia since 1966.

6.2. Habitat conservation.

Morocco: small populations are currently preserved, especially in the Outat el Haj Royal Hunting Reserve (15) and in the forestry reserve at Tafingoult (60). A large population, probably the largest population in the country, counting several hundred animals, survives in pre-Saharan regions (Cuzin, 1996); a proposal currently exists to create a protected area in this region, i.e. in the basin of the lower Drâa (Müller, 1996). The creation of such a protected area would open up invaluable conservation prospects for the persistence of the species in Morocco.

Algeria : the species is found in the following protected areas: the Saharan Atlas National Park (20,000 ha; 100 gazelles), Belezma National Park (26,500 ha; number unknown), Nature Reserve of the State of Mergueb (32,000 ha; 50 gazelles), and the National Forest of the State of Djébel Senalba (20,000 ha; 30 gazelles). Small numbers of Cuvier’s Gazelle also exist in three hunting reserves: the Djébel Achch Hunting Reserve (400 ha), Djébel Nadour Hunting Reserve (200 ha), and the Djébel Aissa Hunting Reserve (500 ha).

Tunisia: since 1974, the regions frequented by the mountain gazelle have been designated as hunting reserves, and in 1980 Chambi National Park (6723 ha) was established. Recent observations indicate that Cuvier’s Gazelle is again settling towards the northeast in the massif of the Tunisian Ridge. Active management measures in the Djébel Khchem el Kelb Reserve were put into place as of 1975; the installations include fence laying on three sides of the reserve, the creation of permanent waterholes, fire trenches, provision of salt stones, additional food, and plantations of inerme cactus (rich in water and calcium).

6.3. Attenuation of obstacles for migratory animals:

not relevant

6.4. Regulations concerning other detrimental factors.

It does not seem necessary to envisage other special regulations for Cuvier’s Gazelle in Morocco, Algeria, or Tunisia.

6.5. Other measures.

The Alméria Park, in Spain, shelters a collection of animals which reproduce in captivity. The Rabat Zoo also has captive animals.

Animals originating from Djébel Chambi were introduced into Libya (Smith, 1998), but the results of this introduction are not known.

7. Research activities

7.1. Public authorities.

A special importance should be accorded to the identification of constricted places which would prevent or complicate dispersion and to the reinstallation of Cuvier’s Gazelle populations, in particular in the Tunisian Ridge but also elsewhere in the range of distribution of the species.

7.2. N.G.O.s

8. Needs and recommended measures

Recommended measures are the object of a plan of action developed parallel to this report (Beudels et al., 1998). The principal needs that they meet are listed below.

8.1. Total protection of the species.

Cuvier’s Gazelle is included in Class A of the African Convention. In consequence, it can only be hunted or collected with the authorization of the highest competent authorities and only in the interest of the nation or for other scientific reasons. Tunisia and Morocco have ratified the African Convention while Algeria has signed it but still not ratified it.

8.2. Conservation measures.

The principal need is to ensure adequate protection, in particular by the creation of a dense network of reserves allowing the species to disperse and redeploy. The arranging of other hunting reserves, on the basis of the model of Khchem El Kelb in Tunisia, should thus enable other sites to effectively play their relay role, especially between the Chambi and Boukornine National Parks in the Tunisian Ridge, but also elsewhere in the range of the species.

8.3. Localization and monitoring of residual populations, and precision of their ecological requirements.

It seems that on the whole these populations are well-known and relatively well monitored, and this measure does not seem to be a first priority at the present time. The newly rediscovered population in the lower Drâa in Morocco deserves, however, a very special effort for counting and protection.

8.4. Reinforcement of populations and reintroduction into the potential range.

Measures have been proposed making it possible to accelerate the redeployment speed of the former range of distribution by reinforcement from individuals born in captivity (Kacem et al., 1994) (e.a. Belezma National Park and Teniel el Had National Park in Algeria; Boukornine National Park in Tunisia). This last proposal would only makes sense in an overall protection strategy for the species if the connections between sites are ensured and made permanent.

9. References

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CORBET, G.B. 1978. The Mammals of the Palaearctic Region: a taxonomic review. London and Ithaca, British Museum (Natural History) and Cornell University Press.

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