The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is a bovid and the smallest member of Oryx genus, native to desert and steppe areas of the Arabian peninsula. An endangered species, the Arabian Oryx was largely extinct in the wild by the early 1970s; reintroduction programs have since been attempted, with mixed success.
Arabian Oryx stand about a metre high at the shoulder and weigh around 70 kilograms (about 154lbs). Their coats are an almost luminous white, their undersides and legs are brown, and there are black stripes where the head meets the neck, on the forehead, on the nose and going from the horn down through the eye to the mouth. Both sexes have long straight ringed horns which reach just over half a metre.
Arabian Oryx rest during the heat of the day and can detect rainfall and will move towards it, meaning that they have huge ranges, a herd in Oman can range over 3,000 square kilometres. Herds are of mixed sex and usually contain between two and fifteen animals. Herds of up to one hundred Arabian Oryx have been reported though. Arabian Oryx are generally unagressive toward one another which allows herds to exist peacefully for some time.
Other than humans, wolves are the Arabian Oryx's only predator. In captivity and good conditions in the wild, Oryx have a life span of up to twenty years. In periods of drought, however, the Arabian Oryx's life expectancy may be significantly reduced by malnutrition and dehydration. Other causes of death include fights between males, snakebites, disease, and drowning during floods.
The diet of the Arabian Oryx consists mainly of grass, but it will eat a large variety of vegetation. This can include trees, buds, herbs, fruit, tubers and roots. Herds of Arabian Oryx follow infrequent rains to eat the new plants that grow afterward. The Arabian Oryx can go several weeks without water. Research in Oman has found that grasses of the genus Stipagrostis are primarily taken; flowers from Stipagrostis plants appeared highest in crude protein and water, while leaves seemed a better food source with other vegetation.
When the oryx is not wandering their habitat or eating they dig shallow depressions in soft ground under shrubs or trees for resting. They are able to detect rainfall from a distance and follow in the direction of fresh plant growth. The number of individuals in herd can vary greatly(100 occasionally), but the average is 10 or below.Bachelor herds do not occur, and single territorial males are rare. Herds establish a straightforward hierarchy that involves all females and males above the age of about seven months. Arabian Oryx tend to maintain visual contact with other herd members, subordinate males taking positions between the main body of the herd and the outlying females. If separated, males will search areas where the herd last visited, settling into a solitary existence until the herd's return. Where water and grazing conditions permit male oryx establish territories. Bachelor males are solitary. A dominance hierarchy is created within the herd by strange, posturing displays which avoid the danger of serious injury that their long, sharp horns could potentially inflict. Males and females use their horns to defend the sparse territorial resources against incomers.
Arabian Oryx were hunted to extinction in the wild by 1972. Attempted reintroduction began in Oman as early 1982, but numbers there have declined, from 450 in 1996 to 106 by early 2003 (with an effective breeding size considered much smaller) due to illegal live capture and the increasing size of herds in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia saw an increase from 400 in 1997 to approximately 700 by early 2003, along with a small increase in the population in Israel. In 2007 the United Arab Emirates released 100 Arabian Oryx into the Abu Dhabi desert, part of a five year plan to reintroduce 500 by 2012.
The Phoenix Zoo is credited with saving the Arabian Oryx from extinction. In 1962 they started the first captive-breeding herd in any zoo. Starting with only 9 animals, the Phoenix Zoo has had over 200 successful births. Oryx were sent to other zoos to start their herds. By 1990, the number of Arabian Oryx had increased to over 1300 including 112 captive bred ones which were reintroduced back to the wild in preserves in their native lands.
On June 28, 2007, Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was the first site to be removed from the UNESCO World Heritage List. UNESCO's reason for this being the Omani government's decision to open 90% of the site to oil prospecting. The Arabian Oryx population on the site has been reduced from 450 Oryx in 1996 to only 65 in 2007. There are now fewer than four breeding pairs left on the site.
Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi leads Damascus meeting to present regional Arabian Oryx conservation strategy.
Jun 09, 2010; Abu Dhabi, June 9th, 2010 (WAM) -- Representatives of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) will meet fellow counterparts from...