israel gazelle six legs portent
© Amir Balaban/SPNIA mountain gazelle with a pair of extra legs growing from its back, due to a genetic abnormality, is seen in a photo taken by conservationist Amir Balaban of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and shared with media on April 8, 2024.
A rare six-legged mountain gazelle has been spotted in Israel. The male gazelle has an extra pair of legs growing from its back, but wildlife experts say it seems to be managing fine with the extra appendages.

The discovery was made by an Israeli army reservist who, in late March, spotted and then sent a photo of the bizarre looking creature to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, or SPNI, an environmental nonprofit organization, after noticing that it had "something strange on its back," according to the group.

Amir Balaban, a conservationist for SPNI, said in a news release shared with CBS News that the six-legged gazelle had "survived a complex litter and survived as a young individual, dealt with many predators that endanger young fawns, matured single and as an adult managed to lead an impressive life in the ."

The nature reserve sits in Israel's southern Negev desert, just a few miles from the war-torn Gaza Strip. SPNI called it "one of the most important remaining strongholds for the Israeli gazelle in the western Negev, especially during the recent war."

"Contrary to expectations, the gazelle is healthy, strong, and has three female gazelles and a fawn from the previous fall. He has been seen hosting the females in the fields and the extra legs on his back pose no challenge to him," Balaban said.

SPNI attributed the gazelle's extra legs to a rare genetic disorder called organ proliferation, or polymelia.

The animal's genetic abnormality was most likely hereditary, Balaban said. According to SPNI, it occurrs frequently in cattle, birds and reptiles, but this is the first known instance of polymelia being documented in a mountain gazelle in the Middle East.

Mountain gazelles are a protected wild species in Israel. There are estimated to be only around 5,000 gazelles of the endangered species remaining in the wild.

While mountain gazelles can be found mostly in Israel, they live across the region and can also be spotted in the Palestinian territories, Turkey, and parts of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.