Skip to main content

Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx dammah (Cretzschmar, 1826)
Oryx algazelle
Die Säbelantilope
المها الإفريقي

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 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.
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, Brachiaria, 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 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).

species conservation

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.

species protection

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.

species priorities
  1. Reintroduction to suitable secure protected areas in former range states, cf. Chad project
  2. Improve management of fenced herds in North Africa
  3. Boost management of captive populations outside of Africa
  4. Support for the constitution of the “world herd” being established by EAD in Abu Dhabi
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 (

Find the same species in....