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Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx algazelle

Large antelope (130-180 kg) with long, backward-sweeping, curved horns. Overall pelage off-white with strongly contrasting reddish wash to the neck and upper chest. Reddish facial markings through the eye and across the bridge of the nose. Tail long and well-tufted.

species biology
Like other desert ungulates, satisfies water requirements through the food it eats. Will drink when water is available and often migrates far in search of new rainfall and green pasture. Herd size between 15-30 head, with much larger assemblies during migrations. Single calf born every 8-9 months. During periods of severe drought, adults succumb and young calves are abandoned.
species habitat

Inhabitant of Sahelian grasslands and sparse Acacia woodlands. Not a true desert species but will penetrate suitable sub-desert habitats if pasture is available during the wet and cool seasons. Grazer favouring wide variety of grasses (Panicum, Aristida, Cenchrus,Chloris) and many leguminous herbs. Strong affection for wild melons of the genus Citrullus because of high water content.

species distribution

Former distribution in broad band of suitable habitat across all Sahelo-Saharan countries from ex-Spanish Sahara in the west to the Nile Valley in the east. Last strongholds in central Niger (Termit) and central Chad (Batha, Ouadi Achim).

species conservation

Extinct in the wild. Last animals probably eastern Niger or central Chad (1990s). Several thousands in Chad and Niger up until late 1970s. Civil war in Chad, and drought and poaching in Niger major causes for final decline. Highly vulnerable to lethal combination of poaching, drought, desertification and encroachment of habitat by rain-fed agriculture and the expansion of pastoralism. Well represented in zoos and private collections, although founder stock is limited.

species protection

Extinct in the wild. Listed on Appendix 1 of both the CITES and CMS conventions. Very promising initiatives in several countries (Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger) to re-establish semi-wild managed populations in large fenced enclosures. Full reintroduction planned but yet to be implemented.

species priorities
  1. Improve management of fenced herds in North Africa
  2. Boost management of captive populations outside of Africa, and constitute a “world herd to bring together all extant genetic resources
  3. Reintroduction to suitable secure protected areas in former range states
species references
  • Morrow, C. in press. Oryx dammah (Cretzschmar). In: The Mammals of Africa. Vol. 6. Artiodactyla. Kingdon, J. S. & Hoffmann, M. (eds). Academic Press, Amsterdam.
  • UNEP/CMS. 2006. Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes. Status and perspectives. Report on the conservation status of the six Sahelo-Saharan antelopes. Eds. R.C. Beudels, P. Devillers, R-M. Lafontaine, J. Devillers-Terschuren & M-O. Beudels. CMS SSA Concerted Action. 2nd Ed. CMS Technical Series Publication No 10, 2006. UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Bonn, Germany. Pp. 33-50.
  • In Tanoust. 1930. La Chasse dans le Pays Saharien et Sahélien. Editions du Comité Algérie-Tunisie-Maroc, Paris.
  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008 (

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