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.
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 fresh rainfall and green pasture. Herd size between 10-30 head, with much larger assemblies possible during migrations. Single calf born every 8-9 months. During periods of severe drought, adults succumb and young calves may be abandoned.
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, Brachiaria, Chloris) and many leguminous herbs. Strong affection for wild melons of the genus Citrullus because of high water content.
Former distribution in broad band of suitable habitat across all Sahelo-Saharan countries from the Morocco in the west to the Nile Valley in the east. Last strongholds in central Niger (Termit) and central Chad (Batha, Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim).
Extinct in the wild. Last animals eastern Niger and central Chad (1980s). 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 mostly to several dozen animals captured in Chad in the 1960s.
Extinct in the Wild (IUCN EW). Listed on Appendix 1 of both the CITES and CMS conventions. Were it not for zoos and private collections, the scimitar-horned oryx would be extinct today. Thanks to the vision, leadership and resources of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, together with precious animals from the collection of the His Highness, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the oryx is now being safely reintroduced to its former rangelands in central Chad (click here for more information on this unique initiative). In several countries (Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia) attempts to re-establish semi-wild managed populations in large fenced enclosures have been undertaken.
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