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Scimitar-horned Oryx

Scimitar-horned Oryx

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Scientific Name:

Oryx dammah


Reintroduced herds are kept in fenced protected areas in Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco.


Herbivore. Grasses, leaves, bushes, juicy fruits.


Habitat: Sub-desert areas

Gestation: 8-8.5 months, 1 cub

Social structure: Multi sex herds of 2 -40 members with one dominant pair.

Weight: 180-200kg

Dimensions: shoulder height: 125cm, length: 160-175cm

Population in the wild: 0

Lifespan: ~20 years

Threats: Over-hunting, habitat loss and competition for limited vegetation with domestic livestock.

IUCN Status: Extinct in the wild

Did you know that:

  1. Ιt is able to live for 9-10 months without water, due to its capacity to conserve body water. It sweats only when its body temperature exceeds 46°C.
  2. In 1988 only a few oryx survived and in 2000 it was declared Extinct in the Wild. Thanks to captive breeding programs in zoos, the species survived.


Saving the scimitar-horned oryx from extinction: a success story for zoos


Extinct in the Wild

Once, the scimitar-horned oryx was one of the most common large mammals throughout the Saharan fringe, but since the late 1980s - early 1990s it quietly slipped into extinction in the wild. Over-hunting, habitat loss and competition for limited vegetation with domestic livestock, all contributed to the extinction of this majestic animal which is especially adapted for dry habitats, able to go without water for almost 10 months!


The Scimitar-horned Oryx in Zoos
Fortunately, the scimitar-horned oryx population within zoos has been thriving for decades (>1,700 registered by the International Studbook, in over 200 institutions). Zoos around the world play a vital role in the conservation of endangered species by providing the right conditions for successful breeding and ensuring genetic diversity through an exchange system (EEP, ESB breeding programs). This has enabled the reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx into the wild.


Reintroduction in the Wild
In 1985, following the initiative of public and private zoos, five captive-bred pairs of scimitar-horned oryx were released into the Bou Hedma National Park in Tunisia. With successful breeding and subsequent reintroduction, the total wild population in Tunisia, Senegal and Morocco is now over 500 individuals and increases constantly. The re-introduction of the oryx and removal of domestic livestock from national parks has seen the re-establishment of native flora and with it insect, bird and small mammal diversity. Thanks to partnerships between governments, the world zoo community, non-governmental organizations, foundations and aid agencies, the scimitar-horned oryx has been saved from extinction. This animal is emblematic of the important role that zoos can play in protecting and saving endangered species.

­­Sources: Sahara Conservation Fund, IUCN, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, www.animalinfo.org (Intl. Found. Cons. Wildl. 2004), T. Gilbert in EAZA Zooquaria Spring 2010 pp16-17, WAZA.

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