Gazelles are a type of antelope found in the grasslands and savannah of Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East, India and central Asia. They eat grasses and generally live in herds. Gazelles are extremely important prey animals, and are preyed upon by all major predators in an ecosystem, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, crocodiles, jackals, African wild dogs, hyenas and humans. Smaller species of gazelles and infants of any species are prey to a greater variety of predators than large adults.
African Wild Dogs
Lycaon pictus, sometimes referred to as African wild dogs, African hunting dogs, painted wolves or painted dogs, are one of the most significant predators of gazelles. The name "wild dog" can be misleading -- this species is distinct from wolves and dogs and is very different from a feral dog. Lycaon pictus hunt gazelle by chasing them over long distances. Their hunts end in a kill 80 percent of the time, as opposed to the lion's success rate of 30 percent.
Leopards, cheetahs and lions prey on gazelle. Of these, leopards and cheetahs are the most important. They prey on both adult and juvenile gazelles. Serval cats, a medium-sized cat around three feet long and just over a foot high, also prey on young gazelles.
Spotted hyenas, also known as laughing hyenas, prey on gazelles. They generally focus their hunting efforts on medium-sized prey, between 120 and 400 pounds, a range that includes larger gazelle species like Grant's gazelle. But spotted hyenas do also hunt smaller prey as well. They generally select for the oldest and weakest members of a herd.
The jackal, a member of the genus Canis and relative of wolves and dogs, is too small to hunt the adult members of most gazelle species, but does prey on the young. Typically, one jackal moves in to threaten the fawn, and the mother gazelle instinctively tries to chase it away. This leaves an opening for other jackals to move in and take the fawn.
Human hunters have preyed upon gazelles for thousands of years, as evidenced by ancient cave paintings of gazelles. In modern times, poachers hunt with jeeps and firearms rather than spears.
Adult gazelles occasionally fall prey to crocodiles. Infants are also sometimes preyed upon by baboons, pythons and eagles.
About the Author
Eric Moll began writing professionally in 2006. He wrote an opinion column for the "Arizona Daily Wildcat" and worked as an editor for "Persona Literary Magazine." He has a Bachelor of Science in environmental science and creative writing from the University of Arizona.