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Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015

Next, the gazelles got trailered to a small settling pasture where they could be monitored while getting used to their collars. With the study group assembled and looking good, the gate into the big study pasture was opened December 19th. The gazelles were left to move out in their own time, but it did not take them long. Most took up residence nearby. Several went down the main road and then came back. A couple departed and stayed away. This pattern of exploration is being watched to see what strategies the gazelles adopt. At the same time, locations during this January’s particularly harsh cold fronts are being noted, too. This kind of information will help owners working with this species on other U.S. properties as well as giving conservation teams seeking to increase numbers in native habitat further insights to assist their planning. Because the dama gazelle is a critically endangered species with only about 300 individuals left in the wild in its North African homelands, all help makes a big difference. As the monthly radio tracking sessions get under way, several ventures begun during the collaring session will be progressing simultaneously. With collars on a group of dama gazelle females for the first time ever, the researchers will be charting what happens to the female group. As they explore their new pasture farther, will they stay together? As weather warms, will they move from their high brush shelter to more open ground? As all this is being watched, the blood samples will be getting their laboratory analysis. Ranch owners want to know whether the way they assemble their herds by acquiring stock from a variety of ranches and the way they switch out their breeding males periodically are working as intended to reduce inbreeding and to maintain genetic diversity. Conservation planners want to know this, too, so that they can assess the health of the species, its expectation of continuing in perpetuity, and the suitability of ranch stock in the U.S. for possible reintroduction into native habitat. To let others share in the anticipation created by this project, the photography team from the collaring session is working on a video showing how everything started and explaining why. When all the collars can be reassembled after the final 12 months of the project, then all the locations gathered for each animal can be mapped along with vegetation type, elevation, and temperature for each satellite “fix.” In the meantime, the tracking, together with events logged by ranch staff, will build up a window into the lives of these very special animals. Putting results from this Hill Country work at Morani River Ranch in the Texas Hill Country together with the recent West Texas research at Stevens Forest Ranch will increase our ability to predict what this species may need under different conditions. May what comes out of this work improve the lives of dama gazelles both in the U.S. and in the wild, both now and into the future. For support of the dama gazelle studies, our sincerest thanks to all our sponsors, both past and present. This newest and most ambitious phase has been made possible by a generous grant to the Second Ark Foundation by Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund. Kevin and Cole Reid of Morani River Ranch are very special supporters for taking the trouble and shouldering the risk to give this project a home. Heartfelt thanks for this chance to help a critically endangered species both on their U.S. ranches and in their native countries across Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara. 84 BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q2 • 2015


Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015
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