Ammodorcas clarkei, the dibatag or Clarke’s gazelle, is found in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia and adjacent parts of northern and central Somalia. This species is found mostly in the arid southeastern lowlands in Ethiopia, and local concentrations occur in the coastal hinterland of central Somalia. (Yalden et al., 1984)
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
In Ethiopia, dibatag formerly occurred widely in the vast plains of the Ogaden region in the eastern lowlands. An extensive ground survey revealed that the dibatag is now rare or absent in the northern Ogaden but still occurs locally within a reasonably large area in the southern Ogaden, where it appears to be quite common in some localities (Wilhelmi 1997). In contrast to the northern Ogaden, which has a relatively high density of settlements and concentrations of armed pastoralists and their herds, the southern Ogaden has lower human densities and extensive areas where the natural flora and fauna appear to be largely intact.
It once occurred widely in central Somalia and on the Haud Plateau. By the early 1980s it had disappeared from large parts of its former range but still occurred locally in reasonable numbers in parts of the central coastal hinterland. Local people indicated that it was still present in this region in the late 1980s, but no more recent information is available. This area has been affected by 20 years of civil and military conflict as well as drought and overgrazing and its status is widely considered to have deteriorated, along with that of other antelope species such as Nanger soemmerringii and Oryx beisa that are easier to monitor (Wilhelmi et al. 2006).
Body length of A. clarkei ranges from 152-168 cm, with a tail length of 25 to 35 cm. Shoulder height varies from 80-88 cm and weight ranges from 22 to 35 kg. The the upper-parts of these gazelles are a grayish-fawn, and the rump and undersides are white. Markings on the face consist of a white stripe running from above the eye to the muzzle. There is a line of chestnut across the nose. The body is thin, and the legs and neck are quite long and thin. The rufous coat blends well with the surroundings making Dibatag difficult to see in thick cover. A noted characteristic is the long, furred black tail that is 25-35 cm long. The curving horns are only found on males and are from 10 to 25 cm long. Dibatags also have small hooves and a flat-shaped skull. (Carter and Mochi, 1971)
Range mass: 22 to 35 kg.
Range length: 152 to 168 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Preferred habitat of dibatags consists of sandy areas with scattered thorn scrub and grasses to arid, low-lying, scrub-covered plains. (Diller and Haltenorth, 1980)
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
The diet of A. clarkei consists of leaves and shoots from bushes and trees. The long necks of dibatags allows them to reach high branches. These animals may also stand on their hind legs with fore feet on the tree to browse. Dibatags may persist with little or no open water present. (Diller and Haltenorth, 1980)
Plant Foods: leaves
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
A. clarkei plays an important role as a prey species for charismatic megafauna.
If a dibatag senses danger, it hides itself behind vegetation, standing still and using its long neck to look over the vegetation to assess the danger. These animals remain motionless until discovered. If being pursued, dibatags will flee with their heads arched back, and use an ambling gait instead of a gallop. Common predators of these animals include cheetahs, lions, hyenas, african hunting dogs, and humans (Diller and Haltenorth, 1980)
- cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)
- lions (Panthera leo)
- hyenas (Hyaenidae)
- African hunting dogs (Lycaon pictus)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
- striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena)
- spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
No information is available on the development of this species.
The lifespan of a dibatag ranges from 10 to12 years. (Diller and Haltenorth, 1980)
Status: wild: 10 to 12 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Information on mating system is not available for this species. In other similarly sized bovid species (e.g. Antilope cervicapra, and Litocranius walleri) males establish and defend territories, at least during the breeding season, and are polygynous. It is likely A. clarkei maintains territories by marking them with urination, defecation, and preornital gland secretions. (Walther et al., 1983)
Females only give birth to one young during the year. Births occur in October and November. The gestation period is 204 days. (Ditrich, 1972). Sexual maturity is reached at 12 to 18 months.
Breeding season: Births occur in October and November.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 6.8 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 to 18 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 12 to 18 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average gestation period: 204 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
As in all mammals, the female provides nourishment for the young through lactation. Young are precocial. Other information on parental care in this species is not available.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Dibatags have been declared endangered in Somalia since 1996. Populations in Somalia are declining due to poaching, habitat degradation caused by drought, and competition with livestock for grazing land. The populations seem to be stable in Ethiopia where they are legally protected from hunting. (Nowak, 1983)
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Vulnerable(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Somalia, Ethiopia
Population location: Somalia, Ethiopia
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Ammodorcas clarkei , see its USFWS Species Profile
The results of recent field surveys in the Ogaden region are better than expected and the finding that this species still occurs in a large area is encouraging. Estimates based on observations and counts suggest a population of about 1,500 in the Ogaden (Wilhelmi et al. 2006). The total surviving population of the Dibatag is unknown, but is clearly not large. Assuming a total remaining range of 10,000 km² and an average population density of 0.1 to 0.3 per km² would suggest a total population in the low thousands. Since Dibatag are very secretive, it is likely that more accurate and even higher population estimates will be found, once thorough field work is possible.
Hunting is also a factor in Ethiopia, but the dibatag’s alertness and the difficulty in hunting it in dense bush have enabled it to survive locally in viable numbers. Local people consider that it is very shy and more alert than any other antelope species, and that it is almost impossible to hunt dibatag intentionally, even though its meat is preferred because of its excellent taste.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
This species competes with livestock for grazing. (Nowak, 1983)
Dibatags are hunted by local peoples, and thereby provide food and hides . (Diller and Haltenorth, 1980)
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
The dibatag (Ammodorcas clarkei), or Clarke's gazelle, is an antelope found in the sandy grasslands of Ethiopia and Somalia. Not a true gazelle, it is similarly marked, with a long, furry, black tail which is raised in flight. This gave rise to its name, which means "erect tail" in Somali.
Male dibatags weigh between 28 and 35 kg (62 and 77 lb), and females range from 22 to 29 kg (49 to 64 lb).
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