The Gazelle's in Trouble
about three years ago, a collision with an automobile left a pregnant gazelle named Giselle lying injured at the side of the road. Fortunately, she was rescued in time, devotedly cared for, and eventually released from 'hospitalization'. To our regret, however, we can't say whether her has life improved or she's become more careful since then. Giselle the gazelle lives in the area of Ramat Hanadiv, in a section the is slated to become a wine park. Like most other gazelles, she must find ways to survive within her habitat, which is getting smaller all the time due to the pressure of construction and development of neighborhoods and roads. After being rehabilitated in the Wildlife Hospital, run jointly by the Israel's Nature and Parks Authority and the Safari, Giselle was returned to her native haunts near the place where she was first found. Automatic cameras that were installed in the area caught her wandering about with her fawn, which in the meantime had been brought into the world.
Before Giselle was released, she was fitted with a collar holding a GPS transmitter, which for six months documented her location. After that, the collar was cut off by an internal mechanism and fell to the ground. With the help of radio waves that could locate the transmitter, the data contained in the GPS were analyzed and studied to determine Giselle's conduct during those six months. Thus, it was possible to reckon when she gave birth by identifying the location where she stayed a while, apparently some 12 hours in one spot. Its was near the Neve Sharett neighborhood in Zichron Ya'akov in an area slated for the development of the 'Wine Park'. We called Giselle's fawn Arik, since we saw him at his mother's side for the first time on the day that one of Israel's leading musicians, Arik Einstein, died. After about a month of wandering together, the mother and son could no longer be observed together although Giselle was spotted on her own. This was a likely indication that her fawn Arik did not survive.
During the first weeks following the birth of a fawn, it is hidden among grasses and can barely be seen. The mother leaves the hiding place so as not to reveal its location, and guards the fawn from a safe distance. Every few hours she returns to nurse.
A camouflage characteristic of the fawns is a fascinating subject in itself. From the moment the fawn emerges into the world, the mother eats the placenta and does her best to obliterate as many identifying signs of the birth (like smell) as possible.
The mother gazelle and her male fawn stay side by side for about four months, after which they separate in order to stake their independent territories. The young females, on the contrary, remain with the mother and join her herd.
After the loss of Arik, Giselle conceived and gave birth again. How do we know? Some months afterward, staff members of Ramat Hanadiv and the Nature and Parks Authority saved a very young fawn that had gotten entangled in a fence, in exactly the same area where Giselle had been run over. After the rescue, the fawn was released. And wonder of wonders, the fawn with its transmitter was next seen on camera next to his mother, Giselle! Sadly, this case also had an sorry ending: a short time later, the transmitter was located on the ground, and the fawn disappeared. This time, too, the explanation seemed to be that the young gazelle was devoured by jackals.
Giselle's story is just one example among many of what the gazelles experience in the surrounds of Ramat Hanadiv, which provides a home for the gazelle population. To our regret, our monitoring tools indeed document the fact that the number of gazelles has been steadily declining over the years.
At Ramat Hanadiv, we have been following the gazelle population methodically since 2003. In this context we try to keep an ongoing estimate of the size of the herds and to follow the trends among them. Our monitoring is carried out through two main methods. First, we attempt to identify the gazelles individually according to a range of marks, such as rings attached to the horns of the males. Second: we do a 'mounted survey' — spotting the animals from a vehicle driving through the relevant areas. This survey is conducted four times a month. The data gathered are analyzed every few years using special statistical models. Last year, it estimated according to this method that the gazelle population in the area numbered about 40 young, mature adults — in contrast to the 90 individuals estimated approximately two decades earlier.
As mentioned above, one of the central problems threatening the gazelle population is the massive development which has decreased their habitats and turned Ramat Hanadiv into a kind of 'desert island' surrounded on all sides by construction and roads. This situation prevents the gazelles today from freely passing between open areas, for instance between Ramat Hanadiv's Nature Park and Givat Alona. Thus the gazelle population finds itself cut off and isolated, which exposes it to the danger of extinction both because of contingencies like the outbreak of disease, and the danger of reproduction within the family, which gives their offspring a predisposition to genetic diseases and birth defects.
As far as Giselle, we hope that she will continue to produce healthy offspring that will be privileged with the freedom to pass through their natural spaces easily and safely. And we, human beings, should find ways to make this possible, giving ourselves the opportunity to enjoy their graceful presence alongside us for many generations.