Chad Oryx Reintroduction Project

The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Project in Chad is a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. In Chad the project is implemented by Sahara Conservation in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. Technical support is provided by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the Zoological Society of London, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and Saint Louis Zoo.


With a distribution that once extended unbroken across the sub-desert belt of Africa, from Mauritania and Morocco in the west to Egypt and Sudan in the east, the scimitar-horned oryx disappeared from Sahelian grasslands more than 30 years ago due to overhunting, exacerbated by periods of severe drought. The Scimitar-horned oryx were last seen in the wild in the 1980s. In 2000, the species was assessed as Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
A large-scale conservation effort drawing on ex situ populations was needed to restore this species to the wild.
  • Scientific name: Oryx dammah
  • Red List Status: Endangered
  • Population: 600 in the wild (estimation by end of November 2023)
  • Habitat: Sahelian grasslands


The scimitar-horned oryx is a flagship species for an entire community of desert wildlife, plans and habitats.
They are known for having long curved horns. They have a white coat with brown chest and black markings on their forehead and nose. They weight between 90 and 210 kg.
Scimitar-horned oryx become inactive in the heat of the day, seeking shade and digging out scrapes in the sand to reduce exposure to drying winds. They graze primarily during the early morning hours and the late evening into the night.
They can go for significantly long periods without water, making them uniquely adapted to their arid desert environment.

Beginning in 2008, Sahara Conservation spearheaded international efforts to develop a global strategy for the restoration of the scimitar-horned oryx and together with a large number of stakeholders developed a suite of tools for the selection of suitable conservation sites and the establishment of criteria critical for successful outcomes.
In 2013, following a series of workshops and feasibility studies led by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, Sahara Conservation, the Zoological Society of London and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve (OROAFR) in central Chad, was selected for the reintroduction program. This vast protected area set up in the 1960s specifically for the conservation of oryx and other desert species is one of the largest in the world and harbors some of the last remaining viable populations of dama and dorcas gazelles.
Under the vision and leadership of EAD, and in partnership with the Government of Chad, a carefully curated “World Herd” of scimitar-horned oryx was established in Abu Dhabi – the descendants of animals originally collected from Chad, and in collections and zoos in the US, Europe and the Middle East – would be reintroduced into their native range.

In March 2016, the first group of 25 scimitar-horned oryx were flown to Chad and transferred to pre-release pens in OROAFR for acclimatization. They were successfully released into the wild in August of the same year.
In September 2016, the first scimitar-horned oryx calf was born in Chad in at least 30 years. Since then, reintroduced oryx have produced more than 500 oryx calves.
Today, 285 oryx have been brought into Chad and the wild population is now estimated to be at least 600 animals in OROAFR.


EAD and Sahara Conservation brought together specialists from the relevant domains (husbandry, genetics, transport, veterinary, etc.) to work on the project. They agreed on and planned specific action together with the Government of Chad. Today, thanks to this fruitful collaboration, new monitoring methods have been developed to meet the specific needs of the project. These include tagging and satellite collaring of released animals, together with a whole suite of field-based activities to monitor the oryxs’ behaviour, dispersion, reproduction and feeding preferences.


After more than three decades of absence, the scimitar-horned oryx is back in the wild and roaming freely in the grasslands of the Ouadi Rimé – Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve.
On December 11th, 2023, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species announced the scimitar-horned oryx has been reclassified from Extinct in the Wild to ‘Endangered’.

The downlisting of the oryx marks a milestone in one of the most ambitious conservation programs ever undertaken and contributes to putting the Sahara and the Sahel more firmly on the global conservation agenda. The successful reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx is paving the way for the recovery of other critically endangered species, like the addax and the dama gazelle, which are already benefitting from the conservation efforts in Chad.
This fantastic result is the fruit of long-term, dedicated cooperation among partners. It also reminds us that efforts must continue to secure the long-term survival of what is still a threatened species. Further work is required to increase sustainability of the restored oryx population and to improve the management and integrity of the habitat it any many other species need to thrive in the wild.


The success of the project has helped expand the program in OROAFR, which now includes other Saharan species of the reserve such as Addax, Dama gazelle, and North African ostrich.
Combined efforts are underway to improve the management and protection of the reserve and build the conditions necessary for the mutually beneficial and successful development of both human and wildlife interests.

"Since 2000 the Scimitar-horned Oryx has been classified as "Extinct in the Wild" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. There have been no sightings for more than 25 years due to un-regulated hunting, loss of habitat and lack of resources for conservation. Leading the program which endeavours to reinstate a viable population of this once extinct-in-the-wild majestic creature in its home range of Chad is dreams come true. The releases will provide us with invaluable data to develop a self-sustaining wild population"

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi

A strong local support

Extinction Need Not Be Forever!

One of the most crucial components of the project is the collaboration with the local communities, the Government of Chad, the national wildlife authorities, administrative local authorities, and traditional leaders. Sahara Conservation regularly meets with them unformally during fieldwork, sensitization campaigns on the ground, or more officially through workshops and officials gatherings. As of today, these very important stakeholders help the project in various ways, from providing information on their oryx sightings or reporting on the existing livestock diseases to fighting bushfires or preventing poaching. Recruiting and training local staff is a big priority to Sahara Conservation. As of today, the project is very well seen and received. A lot of the locals, especially amongst the elders, have witnessed the extinction of the scimitar-horned oryx decades ago and are now thrilled to see the species back in the reserve.



To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

How To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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Milestone: the scimitar-horned oryx downlisted from Extinct in the Wild to Endangered by IUCN

After nine years of the world’s most ambitious species reintroduction program, once ‘Extinct in the Wild’ scimitar-horned oryx now roam freely in the wild in Chad.

Sandscript #30 – Antelope darting protocols in Chad

Read here the fifth article of Sandscript 30th issue The tele-anesthesia and chemical immobilization of wild antelopes that the Government of Chad, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Sahara Conservation strive to conserve falls under the responsibility of EAD veterinarians. The ultimate goal is to safely anesthetize individual animals from a distance to […]

Well Spotted, Habib!

On a routine monitoring patrol in  late January 2021, SCF’s long term oryx monitoring team member Habib Ali, who has been with the project since the start, came across an untagged female oryx with a young calf at foot.  Judging by the horn development, he estimated the new calf was around one month old and […]