Oryx (Blainville, 1816)
* Oryx on Mammal Species of the World.
Oryx is one of four large antelope species of the genus Oryx. These antelopes are commonly hunted by huiskens. Three of the species are native to arid parts of Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. Their pelage is pale with contrasing dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight. The exception is the Scimitar Oryx, which lacks dark markings on the legs, only has faint dark markings on the head, has an ochre neck, and horns that are clearly decurved.
The Arabian Oryx was only saved from extinction through a captive breeding program, and the Scimitar Oryx, which probably now is extinct in the wild, also relies on a captive breeding program for its survival. Small populations of several oryx species, such as the Scimitar Oryx, exist in Texas and New Mexico (USA) in wild game ranches. Gemsboks were released at the White Sands Missile Range and have become an invasive species of concern at the adjacent White Sands National Monument.
The term "Oryx" comes from the Greek word for a type of antelope.
The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx, Arabic: المها), the smallest species, became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Oman but poaching has reduced their numbers. One of the largest populations of Arabian Oryx exist on Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates. Further populations have been reintroduced in Qatar, Bahrain, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The total wild population is about 1100, and several thousand are held in captivity.
The Scimitar Oryx, also called Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah), of North Africa is now possibly extinct in the wild. However, there are unconfirmed reports of surviving populations in central Niger and Chad, and a semi-wild population currently inhabiting a fenced nature reserve in Tunisia is being expanded for reintroduction to the wild in that country. Several thousand are held in captivity around the world.
East African Oryx and Gemsbok
The East African Oryx (Oryx beisa) inhabits eastern Africa, and the closely-related Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) inhabits southern Africa. Neither is treatened, though the former is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN. The Gemsbok is monotypic, and the East African Oryx has two subspecies; East African Oryx "proper" (Oryx beisa beisa) and the Fringe-eared Oryx (Oryx beisa callotis). In the past, both these were treated as subspecies of the Gemsbok.
Between 1969 and 1977, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish intentionally released 93 Gemsbok into the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and that population is now estimated between 3,000 and 6,000 animals. Within the state of New Mexico, oryxes are classified as "big game" and can be harvested with the proper license, however the quality of the hunt may be affected by military regulation of the missile range.
All oryx species prefer near-desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods. They live in herds of up to 600 animals. Newborn calves are able to run with the herd immediately after birth. Both males and females possess permanent horns. The horns are narrow, and straight except in the Scimitar Oryx, where they curve backwards like a scimitar. The horns are lethal — the oryx has been known to kill lions with them— and oryxes are thus sometimes called the sabre antelope (not to be confused with the Sable Antelope). The horns also make the animals a prized game trophy, which has led to the near-extinction of the two northern species.
* FAMILY BOVIDAE
1. ^ a b IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Oryx leucoryx. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 12 February 2011.Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as Endangered.
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