It stands at 65 cm (26 in) tall and weighs about 23 kg (51 lb). It has a reddish-buff summer coat with smooth, glossy fur. In winter, the white belly and throat fur is in greater contrast. The sides of the face have dark chestnut stripes from the corner of the eye to the muzzle, bordered by white stripes. Its horns reach over 39 cm (15 in).
Chinkara live in arid plains and hills, deserts, dry scrub and light forests. They inhabit more than 80 protected areas in India. In Pakistan, they range up to elevations of 1,500 m (4,900 ft). In Iran, they inhabit the Kavir National Park.
In 2001, the Indian chinkara population was estimated at 100,000 with 80,000 living in the Thar Desert. The population in Pakistan is scattered, and has been severely reduced by hunting. Also in Iran, the population is fragmented. In Afghanistan, chinkaras are probably very rare.
Chinkaras are shy and avoid human habitation. They can go without water for long periods and can get sufficient fluids from plants and dew. Although most are seen alone, they can sometimes be spotted in groups of up to four animals. They share their habitat with several other herbivores, such as nilgai, blackbuck, chausingha, wild goat, and wild boar.
Chinkaras mate once a year. Males compete for access to females.
Chinkaras are preyed upon by leopards, Bengal tigers, Asiatic lions and dholes. The chinkara was a common prey of the Asiatic cheetah in India alongside blackbucks. Outside protected areas they may be attacked by pariah dogs, and both wolves and golden jackals are also known to hunt them.
The chinkara is threatened by extensive hunting for meat and trophies in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Other threats include habitat loss due to agricultural and industrial expansion. The status in these countries is unclear. Around 1,300 individuals occur in Iran. However, the situation in India is not so grim; in 2001, populations were estimated at over one million in the country, of which nearly 80,000 occur in the Thar desert, with a stable population trend. Since 2003, it has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
In 1993, a controversy erupted when the Gujarat government issued a decree to denotify the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, that contains a small population of chinkara, to allow mining of lignite, limestone, bentonite and bauxite inside the sanctuary. This was, however, rejected by the Gujarat High Court, and the sanctuary was restored to its earlier limits.
The chinkara occurs in over 80 protected areas in India. In January 2016, the Karnataka government issued a notification to establish a sanctuary especially for chinkara in the Yadahalli village in the Bagalkot district of the state. This region shelters a major population of chinkara. The chinkara is protected in nine areas of Iran and five of Pakistan.
Indian gazelles, Gazella bennettii, are primarily found in the northwestern region of India in the state of Rajasthan. Their distribution extends from south of the Krishia River, as far east as central India, and into the north-central region of Iran (east of the Zagros Range and south of the Alborz). Sixty to 70 percent of the global population of Indian gazelles is presently found in western Rajasthan.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Indian gazelles are characterized by a sandy, yellowish and red colored fur with a pale white ventral region. Facial markings are well developed: they have a dark brown or black forehead and a light face with dark stripes and a noticeable nose spot. Fur color varies seasonally. In the winter, Indian gazelles are a dark grayish sandy color, and there is a distinct brown band edging the white ventral area of the torso. In the summer, the fur is a darker brown.
Indian gazelles have straight horns with prominent rings and tips that are slightly out-turned. Horns are found on both males and females, although they are relatively shorter in females. Sub-adult males are hard to distinguish from females because of their intermediate horn length. Horns can reach lengths of 250 to 350 mm in adult males. Female horns are usually half the length of and thinner in width than male horns and have less prominent rings. Average male horn length of the subspecies Gazella bennetti fuscifrons and G. b. shakari is 256.6 mm. Females of these subspecies have an average horn length of 184.7 mm.
Indian gazelles reach 0.9 to 1.2 m in length and 0.6 to 0.8 m in height. Fully grown Indian gazelles weigh 20 to 25 kg. Females tend to weigh less than males and can be as much as 10 cm shorter in height.
The braincase is reasonably short and flat, with a long slender premaxilla that has a slight curve. The skull has large auditory bullae and teeth. The toothrows are bowed outward and incurved anteriorly.
Range mass: 20 to 25 kg.
Range length: 0.9 to 1.2 m.
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; ornamentation
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Indian gazelles can thrive in a variety of habitats. They have been observed in dry deciduous forests, open woodlands, and dry areas such as sand dunes, semi-arid deserts, and arid valleys that have an annual rainfall of 150 to 750 mm. Indian gazelles are facultative drinkers and can withstand relatively long intervals between visits to water points by conserving metabolic water and taking advantage of water found in vegetation.
Average elevation: 1524 m.
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest
Indian gazelles are better adapted to browsing than grazing, but they can consume legumes and grasses in large quantities. Their diet typically consists of grasses, various leaves, crops and fruits such as pumpkins and melons. A majority of their metabolic water intake comes from the vegetation they consume. The brush and trees that make up their diet are found in mountain ranges and deciduous forests, while grasses and other herbaceous plants are found in valleys and agricultural fields. In the arid Thar Desert, Indian gazelles mainly consume four species of herbs: Crotalaria burhia (42% of diet), Ziziphus nummularia (15%), Maytenus emerginata (11%), and Prosopis cineraria (9%).
Plant Foods: leaves; fruit
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore )
Indian gazelles eat fruits such as pumpkins and melons and thus act as seed dispersers.
Hypoderma diana, a species of warbler, lays its eggs on the legs of Indian gazelles. When a gazelle licks its legs, the eggs are ingested. Larvae of Hypoderma diana emerge in the digestieve tract and create "warbles" or swellings under the skin. When the warbler emerges through the skin, it may injure the gazelle. Additionally, this decreases value of the hide to trappers.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
The primary predators of Indian gazelles are golden jackals (Canis aureus), Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), Indian wolves (Canis lupus pallipes), Indian leopards (Panthera pardus fusca), Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus), crested hawk-eagles (Nisaetus cirrhatus), village or feral dogs (Canis lupus) and, most importantly, humans. Hunting and illegal poaching have greatly reduced population sizes of this species. Indian gazelles use their speed and stamina to evade predators and use their horns for defense.
When alarmed, Indian gazelles stamp their forefoot on the ground and emit a sneeze-like hiss through the nose.
Communication Channels: acoustic
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical
Longevity of wild Indian gazelles is unknown. One individual lived to be 12.3 years of age in captivity.
Status: captivity: 12.3 (high) years.
Indian gazelles are polygamous. Males are extremely territorial and defend their resources with their horns. Male-male competition is frequently observed during the mating season, and males aggressively defend females from other males before mating. Mating begins as a male gazelle touches the underparts of a female gazelle with a stiff leg, called “laufschlag.” When complete, copulation ensues.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
There are two breeding seasons throughout the year, one at the end of the monsoon season from late August through early October, and the second in late spring from March to the end of April. Indian gazelles have a gestation period of 5 to 5.5 months. Females generally give birth to one offspring, but twins have been frequently reported. A majority of births occur in April. Offspring are precocial and are weaned at about 2 months of age, though they may stay with their mother for up to 12 months when she has another offspring. Female Indian gazelles first conceive when they are yearlings.
Breeding interval: Female Indian gazelles may give birth yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding seasons occur from late August to early October and again from March to the end of April
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Range gestation period: 5 to 5.5 months.
Average weaning age: 2 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Female Indian gazelles provide direct care to offspring until they are weaned at about 2 months of age. Some offspring, however, may stay with their mother for up to 12 months when she has another offspring.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Gazella bennettii is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Indian gazelles were considered threatened in the 1950's due to habitat loss and anthropogenic activities such as hunting and poaching. Agricultural practices along with the general increase in human population has led to extirpation in certain areas.
In 1994 the species was considered vulnerable, and in 1996 Gazella bennettii was considered a species of lower risk. The species has since recovered and is now considered a species of least concern by the IUCN.
Gazella bennettii was considered a Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India in 1972. Indian law fully protects Indian gazelles, reserving 80% of India as protected land, 5% of Pakistan and 9% of Iran. The Punjab Wildlife Act declared Gazella bennettii a protected species in the Cholistan Desert, which provides 26,000 km2 of habitat for this speices, and in the Punjab province.
There are over 25 protected areas within Rajasthan. However, the highest densities of Indian gazelles are found outside of these protected areas and parks, mainly within the Vishnoi communities. There are 6 major Indian gazelle conservation areas within the small district of Jodhpur, each with large populations. All protected areas have legal status as closed or non-shooting zones. The national parks of Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore are also protected. Populations of Indian gazelles have rebounded, mainly due to conservation efforts.
Extensive research on Indian gazelles has been conducted by the Ecology and Rural Development Society. This society observes and monitors identified clusters of gazelles, studies population dynamics, creates networks of volunteers for anti-poaching activities, and hosts local level awareness workshops.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
Indian gazelles occasionally feed on agricultural fields.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Indian gazelles are considered sacred by the Vishnoi community of Rajasthan, which may contribute to larger populations in this area. Indian gazelles are also hunted for their skin, meat, and occasionally for horns, which serve as trophies.
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
There are several subspecies of Gazelle bennettii: G.b.bennettii, G.b.chiristii, G.b. fusciforms, G.b. karamii, G.b. salinarum, G.b. shikarii. The spelling and taxonomic classification of G. bennettii varies, as discussed in Rahmani 1990.
Indian gazelles have chromosomal complements of 2n = 49 to 52.