Honk if you love gazelles

 

For such a small, elegant, graceful animal, Speke’s gazelle (pronounced “speaks”) has a honkin’ big nose. And when we say “honkin’,” we mean that literally.

 

These gazelles have inflatable nasal sacs formed by loose folds of skin behind their nostrils. When the animal senses danger or is agitated, the inflated sac forms a hollow chamber that amplifies the sound — a sort of sneeze-snort. This acts as an alarm call to others or simply announces the gazelle’s presence.

 

One may ask, “Is that why they are called Speke’s gazelle? Because they are “speaking?”

 

Actually, Speke is the name of a 19th-century European explorer for whom the species is named. Animals are often named after a scientist/discoverer or famous public figure.

 

For example, Grevy’s zebras, which share the same exhibit at the Pueblo Zoo, are named after a 19th-century French politician, Jules Grevy. The DeBrazza’s monkeys that soon will be joining the African painted dogs were named after Italian-French explorer Pierre Paul Francois Camille Savorgnan de Brazza, for whom the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville, was named.

 

The use of human family names is abundant in the animal kingdom, and can sometimes create inaccurate, if not amusing, assumptions. Pallas cats don’t live in palaces. White’s tree frogs are not white. Canada geese aren’t really Canadian.

 

The zoo’s staff sometimes has fun using these names when naming animals. For example: The zoo’s newest Kirk’s dik-dik, located near the gazelle exhibit, was named Captain, for Captain Kirk of “Star Trek” fame.

 

 

 

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Pueblo Zoo  • 3455 Nuckolls Ave.  •  Pueblo, CO 81005  

Phone: 719-561-1452  Fax: 719-561-8986

 

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Our mission is to empower people to engage in conservation of animals and their natural habitat.