This is how Prof. José Antonio Valverde describes the place that he chose to breed in captivity and save from extinction three species of North African gazelles, whose populations had diminished drastically in their areas of natural distribution. The first gazelles arrived at the place called the Parque de Rescate de la fauna Sahariana(PRFS), in January 1971, thus concluding what the famous professor had baptized "Operation Mohor", since the first individuals that arrived belonged to this subspecies of Gazella dama. In Almería, Valverde also counted on "the enthusiastic help of the Director, Manuel Mendizábal and Antonio Cano" (ibid).
The "La Hoya" Experimental Field Station is a unique facility belonging to the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), which became a part of the Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas in May 1975, for the sole main purpose since the first gazelles arrived there, of avoiding the extinction of the large ungulate species that inhabit the Western Sahara: Gazella dama mhorr, Gazella dorcas neglecta, Gazella cuvieri and Ammotragus lervia sahariensis.
It is a medium-sized gazelle, that can weigh up to 35 kg. Until the middle of the 20th century, it occupied a large mountainous territory in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, from which its name of mountain or Atlas gazelle is derived.
The pressures of hunting and progressive deterioration of its natural habitat are the main causes for its decline. At the present time, they are only found in small isolated enclaves, where it is estimated that there is a world population of less than 800 individuals. It is considered “Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The present population of around one hundred individuals all descend from three animals (1 male and 2 females) brought from the Western Sahara in May 1975 and one female imported from Morocco that was brought to a private estate in Almería and its blood went on to become part of the genetic stock of the Park’s population in 1987.
The responsible for the species studbook are
Eulalia Moreno and
Gazella dama :
The dama gazelle is the largest of the three gazelle species kept at La Hoya. The males are larger than the females, and may weigh as much as 65 to 70 kg. The individuals are the subspecies mhorr. This subspecies is extinct in the majority of its natural territories and at the present time is on the verge of extinction in the wild. Its natural area of distribution extended throughout the Western Sahara, from Morocco to Senegal. The main cause of its decline has been the pressure from hunting to which it has been subjected for many years and this, along with the degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, has led the IUCN to consider it a species in danger of extinction and to be included as a Species I in the CITES Convention.
The current captive population of around 200 individuals all descend from five animals (1 male and 4 females) brought from the Western Sahara to Almería in 1971 and 1975. The highest captive population is in La Hoya (over one hundred individuals); the rest is distributed in 15 zoos of Europe, Canada and the USA.
The responsible for the species studbook are
Gerardo Espeso and
Gazella dama mhorr is also part of an EEP (Europäisches Ehhaltungszucht Programm). The EEP coordinator is
It is small and weighs only 15 to 18 kg. Its natural habitat is a broad territory in North Africa from the Atlantic to the shores of the Red Sea, and from the Saharan strip to the Mediterranean coast. At present, there are five subspecies described in its entire area of distribution.
Its decline is due more to hunting than to the loss or deterioration of its habitat. At the present time it is considered a “vulnerable·” species by the IUCN.
The Station population is the subspecies neglecta, typical of the western edge of the Sahara Desert, where the first 14 individuals were brought from. The captive population consists of around 85 animals kept at the Station, plus those in zoos in Madrid, Barcelona, Jerez de la Frontera, Tabernas Desert Theme Park, Nueva de Llanes, Marwell Zoological Park (United Kingdom) and Hannover Zoo (Germany).
The responsible of studbook and EEP are
Ammotragus lervia sahariensis:
The Station Experimental also has a captive species of North African goat, the Barbary Sheep, a subspecies typical of the mountainous areas in extreme western Sahara. The taxonomic status of this subspecies is subject to review and its natural populations are currently considered extinct. This is especially due to the strong pressure of hunting to which its populations have been subjected. The captive population originated from three individuals (2 males and 1 female) brought from the Western Sahara in 1975 and at present there are around 50 individuals.
The responsible for the species studbook