Mon. Nov 18th, 2019

From Almeria to Tunisia, 33 Cuvier's gazelles return to their habitat



Thirty-three copies of "Cuvier's gazelle" were released this Friday in the Jebel Serj National Park, in central Tunisia, in the framework of a cooperation project between the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Tunisian authorities to reintroduce this species into its natural habitat.

A vulnerable species, mainly concentrated in North Africa and the Sahara, whose population has been reduced to 2,000 copies in freedom, according to the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For this program, the team of scientists carried out a selection process of the captive population, mostly females, of the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (EEZA) of Almería, world reference center in the conservation of Saharan fauna, and the zoo Oasis Park of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands).

In a second stage, the animals were transported in a plane of the Tunisian armed forces under veterinary supervision until their release in this protected area that is more than a thousand kilometers away.

A "successful" initiative, the Vice President of International Relations of the CSIC, Elena Domínguez Cañas, told Efe during the release, which has already shown its first results.

Acclimatize to a new house, which was your home

"After eight months we already had 25 offspring, it was the anticipation of a success. Then we have seen a second generation with 33, which showed that they were already in a position to give them greater freedom," he congratulated.

After a similar release carried out in 2016, in which 43 copies were introduced, the person in charge indicated that her genetics have been thoroughly studied to know which are the subspecies that best adapt to the natural environment and not to repeat mistakes.

"With the gazelles it happens as with humans, there are those that adapt to the endless winters and days of a lot of darkness or those that adapt to periods of very light," he explained.

After three fruitful reproductive periods, which coincide with spring, the researchers were optimistic with a possible birth next year of the first litter released. To this is added, they say, the average life expectancy in captivity – between two and 12 years – that has managed to remain in semi-captive conditions.

"These are his children and even his grandchildren, who have been acclimating to this new house for three years, which was his house," said the project director, Eulalia Moreno Mañas, who revealed that since 1930 its population was virtually extinct, although he hopes that from now on increase at the rate of 30 percent per year.

JEBEL SERJ NATIONAL PARK

Moreno Mañas, who studies the species of Cuvier's gazelle, a species in which twin births represent about 40% of cases, since 2014, indicated that there is a second population in the Chaambi National Park, located on the border with Algeria and become a refuge for armed Salafist groups, although their number is unknown.

"A key factor is knowing all aspects of their biology: how they reproduce and when, what are the best environmental conditions, what they eat, if they have predators or what are their possible infectious diseases," he said.

Despite its modest extension of 17 square kilometers, the Jebel Serj National Park is one of the most populous and most biodiverse areas, said the director general of Forests in the Ministry of Agriculture of Tunisia, Mohamed Boufaroua.

A "memorable" day, he added, that opens the doors to future cooperation projects with other animal species such as the Mohor gazelle thanks to the similarity of natural conditions between both countries.

In a next stage, the new residents of Jebel Berj will be equipped with collars with GPS technology to be monitored, both from Spain and Tunisia, to know their movements and their biology in order to create a database that facilitates their research.

A device that naturalists believe necessary in the face of controversy over the disappearance of most of those introduced in 2016 and, which according to some human rights activists in Tunisia, were victims of organized hunting for local and foreign hunters.

Natalia Román Morte

. (tagsToTranslate) Almeria (t) Tunisia (t) gazelles (t) Cuvier (t) return



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