The Arabian oryx is endangered because of habitat destruction and hunting for its meat, hide and trophies. In 1972, the species was declared extinct in the wild and survived only in captivity. Starting in 1982, captive breeding programs in the United States and elsewhere allowed them to be reintroduced into the wild, first in Oman, then Jordan and finally Saudi Arabia.
The natural habitat of the Arabian oryx is in deserts, arid plains, rocky hillsides and thick brush. They consume grass and shrubs and, when free water is scarce, can get sufficient moisture from melons and succulent bulbs for extended periods of time. They can also detect rainfall from a great distance and move toward that area for the fresh vegetation that arises. They are relatively large animals, ranging up to 8 feet in length, 4 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder and nearly 500 pounds in weight. They have long, relatively straight horns that slope back from their heads.
Arabian oryx are herd animals, commonly living in groups of less than 10 animals, but ranging up to 100. They occupy very large ranges, which is necessary because of the sparse food and water in their habitats. They dig out depressions next to shaded shrubs or trees for resting.