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Six-Legged Gazelle Sheshet Flourishes In Israeli Negev; Conservation Efforts Boost Population‌ ‌

Sheshet, the polydactyl gazelle, thrives in the Negev region, attracting mates amid conservation initiatives to protect dwindling populations.‌   ‌
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Three months ago, a six-legged gazelle was spotted frolicking its way through the Israeli Negev region. Now, the gazelle, who has been nicknamed Sheshet — from the Hebrew word for “six” — has been spotted again, and it seems like he’s been keeping busy.

In contrast to the mental image that your brain has surely conjured in response to the phrase “six-legged gazelle,” Sheshet’s two extra legs — the result of a condition known as “polydactylism” — are floppy, furry, hooved sticks growing out of his back. 

But while his spare parts may not be placed in a position that can make him prance faster than a run-of-the-mill gazelle, Sheshet is still making decent strides where it counts: the dating scene.

When Amir Balaban, a worker for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), revisited the area where Sheshet was first seen in order to check on the hexaped’s condition, he discovered that the young gazelle has added another female to his herd, making up a sum total of four does.

The latest addition to Sheshet’s group was previously tagged by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), and was relocated to the area recently.

“In the next two months, during July and August, the gazelles will enter their rutting season, and there will be much activity in the Besor Stream area. It will be interesting to see how Sheshet handles rival males,” said Balaban.

Predators pose dangers

Even though courting four females simultaneously is nothing to sneeze at these days, Balaban still expressed concern over the small size of the herd, noting there was only one fawn.

This could be due to babies getting eaten by predators, as many jackals in the Besor Stream area pose a threat to young fawns, or due to stray dogs from Gaza that roam agricultural fields and prey on young gazelles.

Eliav Maslati, a northern Negev INPA ranger who joined Balaban on his excursion, shared his excitement about documenting Sheshet during a routine patrol.

“I’m happy to see he is surviving and has joined the local herd. The northern Negev once had a thriving gazelle population that suffered from intensive poaching in the 2000s, nearly leading to their extinction,” he noted.

Only around 5,000 Israeli gazelles are left in the wild, their primary threats being habitat destruction due to construction and road building, which isolate their populations. 

Preserving open spaces and ecological corridors is essential to maintain their dwindling numbers, and efforts are being made to incorporate these into development plans.

As well, the INPA has been fighting illegal wildlife hunting and has been relocating gazelles to suitable habitats.

“Today, there is a thriving and growing gazelle population in the Gerar Stream and Besor Stream areas, and conservation efforts are ongoing,” Maslati said.


Sheshet and his six legs, looking majestic. Photo by Eliav Maslati/SPNI
Sheshet and his six legs, looking majestic. Photo by Eliav Maslati/SPNI


              Produced in association with ISRAEL21c

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