The near-sacred status of this gazelle in Azerbaijan means that its threatened population is now being carefully protected
Found: The goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) – which receives its common name due to a swelling of the larynx, resembling a goitre, of the male during mating season – once ranged widely from the Arabian Peninsula across the Middle East and Asia all the way to Mongolia, China and Pakistan. Numbers fell dramatically in the first half of the 20th century but today one of the largest concentrations is in Shirvan National Park in Azerbaijan. The plants of their semi-desert habitat supply them with enough moisture, while gazelles in Shirvan also drink brackish water from Chala Lake and elsewhere.
Under threat because: Like many other endangered species, the goitered gazelle has suffered as a result of habitat loss due to economic development. The spread of agriculture and overgrazing by growing numbers of livestock has led to competition for food, and it suffers from poaching as well. These threats have led to this graceful creature being classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Outlook: While protected in all the countries it inhabits, erratic enforcement of this legislation means the goitered gazelle may increasingly rely on reserves such as Shirvan for safe refuge. In Azerbaijan it numbered barely 200 in the 1960s, but now the population there is estimated by the IUCN to be around 4,000.
Illustration by Margaux Carpenter
This story appeared in the Autumn 2015 issue of Baku magazine.