Definitions

Scimitar_Oryx

Scimitar Oryx

The Scimitar Oryx, or Scimitar-Horned Oryx, (Oryx dammah) is a species of oryx which formerly inhabited the whole of North Africa. Today conflicting reports exist as to whether it is extinct in the wild, or whether small populations survive in central Niger and Chad.

Appearance

The Scimitar Oryx is just over a metre at the shoulder and weighs around two hundred kilograms. Its coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The horns are long, thin and parallel and curve backwards (like a scimitar) and can reach a metre to a metre and a quarter on both sexes, male and female.

Ecology

Scimitar Oryx natively inhabit steppe and desert where they eat leaves, grass and fruit. They form herds of mixed sex containing up to seventy animals. Formerly they would gather in groups of several thousand for migration. Scimitar Oryx can survive without water for many weeks, because their kidneys prevent loss of water from urination and they can modify their body temperature to avoid perspiration.

Conservation

Scimitar Oryx were hunted for their horns, almost to extinction. Where once they occupied the whole Sahara, they are now considered to be extinct in the wild, although there have been unconfirmed sightings in Chad and Niger.

A global captive breeding programme was initiated in the 1960s. In 1996, there were at least 1,250 captive animals held in zoos and parks around the world with a further 2,145 on ranches in Texas. A herd exists in a fenced nature preserve in Tunisia, and is being expanded with plans for reintroduction to the wild in that country.

There was a sighting of 10-15 scimitar oryx in Brewster County, Texas, on April 6, 2008. They likely escaped some time earlier from an exotic game hunting ranch in Texas, but now appear to be doing quite well in the arid environment around Big Bend National Park.

References

  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct in the wild.

External links

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