The World’s Smallest Gazelle Is Cute and in Crisis
Our enormous planet is jam-packed with natural wonders, many of which are very, very small. Exhibit A: the Speke’s gazelle (Gazella spekei), a long-lashed little grazer that needs all the help it can get.
Named for blustery British explorer John Hanning Speke, G. spekei is outfitted with knobbly stick legs, long ears, and a very special stealth snoot. Most of the time, it looks like your typical gazelle face. But in times of trouble, stress, or danger, a gazelle can inflate a tennis-ball-sized sac, creating a pocket of air. That air then magnifies the gazelle’s honk-like distress calls, stretching them farther across the grasslands.
Sadly, those distress calls may come in handy quite often these days. G. spekei is the most endangered gazelle on the planet. Hunting, overgrazing of cattle, and drought have shrunk the little ungulate’s home and headcount. Today, no part of their habitat is protected, which means things will just keep getting worse unless we can intervene.
In the meantime, some zoos have begun their own captive breeding programs. The St. Louis Zoo’s program has welcomed 100 Speke’s gazelle calves, including the sweet, sweet baby shown below.