Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx, Scimitar-Horned

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  • Information
  • Conservation
  • Lifestyle

Description

Like others in the hippotraginae sub-family such as sable, roan and addax, the scimitar-horned oryx has a black and white face mask. In this species the black tends to fade to brown with age. They have white coats with rusty brown necks and chests that helps reflect the hot desert sun. They have broad flat hooves that prevent sinking into sand, thus enabling proficient travel in the desert sand dunes. Their most distinctive features are the two long, curved scimitar or sickle-shaped horns possessed by both sexes. These impressive horns can reach 3-4 feet (100-125 cm) in length and are very thin and prone to breaking.
Scimitar-horned oryx are very well-suited to desert life with several physiological adaptations which allow them to go without drinking water for months at a time. Specialized kidneys prevent urinary water loss, while perspiration is minimized by elevating body temperature to a maximum of 46.5C (116o F).

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Oryx
Species
O. dammah
Conservation Status
Extinct in the Wild

Key Facts

Height
3.5-4 ft (~110-125 cm)
Weight
395-440 lb (~180-200 kg)

The IUCN Red List describes Oryx dammah as Extinct in the Wild. The last wild oryx was seen in the late 1980’s, with no evidence of their survival in the wild for more than 15 years. The population was decimated due to overhunting for trophies and meat. Fortunately, a viable captive population has been maintained, primarily on large game preserves in Texas and in the United Arab Emirates and other gulf countries. A reintroduction project is currently underway with the goal of reestablishing this species into a portion of its historical range in central Chad.

Social Life
The scimitar-horned oryx is an extremely gregarious species of antelope once normally found in herds of up to 70 individuals, though herds of thousands of animals would formerly gather for migrations and after rainfalls. Herds are usually led by a dominant male, unlike other oryx species, solitary males are seldom seen. During the wet season, herds would migrate north into the Sahara, returning south to the Sahel as the dry season approached.

Habitat and Range
The scimitar-horned oryx were at one time found in desert to sub-desert region of North Africa from Senegal to central Sudan. They were generally found in the arid borders between the Sahara and the Sahel in regions with rolling dunes and grassy steppes.

Diet
Scimitar-horned oryx are browsers that eat primarily annual grasses, but will also consume leaves, legumes, roots and fruit when available. Being nomadic these oryx will travel many miles in search of new grass which sprouts up quickly after sudden rains. They are well adapted to arid environments and are thus able to survive almost indefinitely without drinking water by utilizing the moisture found in the vegetation they eat.

Lifespan
Captive oryx have been documented living 20-28 years.

Predators
Formerly scimitar-horned oryx were hunted by lions, leopards and hyenas.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 1.5-2 years, Female: 1.5-2 years
Mating Season: Year-round
Birth Season:     Peaks in March and October
Gestation:          8-8.5 months
No. of Young:     1

Information

Description

Like others in the hippotraginae sub-family such as sable, roan and addax, the scimitar-horned oryx has a black and white face mask. In this species the black tends to fade to brown with age. They have white coats with rusty brown necks and chests that helps reflect the hot desert sun. They have broad flat hooves that prevent sinking into sand, thus enabling proficient travel in the desert sand dunes. Their most distinctive features are the two long, curved scimitar or sickle-shaped horns possessed by both sexes. These impressive horns can reach 3-4 feet (100-125 cm) in length and are very thin and prone to breaking.
Scimitar-horned oryx are very well-suited to desert life with several physiological adaptations which allow them to go without drinking water for months at a time. Specialized kidneys prevent urinary water loss, while perspiration is minimized by elevating body temperature to a maximum of 46.5C (116o F).

Classification

Class
Mammalia
Order
Cetartiodactyla
Family
Bovidae
Genus
Oryx
Species
O. dammah
Conservation Status
Extinct in the Wild

Key Facts

Height
3.5-4 ft (~110-125 cm)
Weight
395-440 lb (~180-200 kg)
Conservation

The IUCN Red List describes Oryx dammah as Extinct in the Wild. The last wild oryx was seen in the late 1980’s, with no evidence of their survival in the wild for more than 15 years. The population was decimated due to overhunting for trophies and meat. Fortunately, a viable captive population has been maintained, primarily on large game preserves in Texas and in the United Arab Emirates and other gulf countries. A reintroduction project is currently underway with the goal of reestablishing this species into a portion of its historical range in central Chad.

Lifestyle

Social Life
The scimitar-horned oryx is an extremely gregarious species of antelope once normally found in herds of up to 70 individuals, though herds of thousands of animals would formerly gather for migrations and after rainfalls. Herds are usually led by a dominant male, unlike other oryx species, solitary males are seldom seen. During the wet season, herds would migrate north into the Sahara, returning south to the Sahel as the dry season approached.

Habitat and Range
The scimitar-horned oryx were at one time found in desert to sub-desert region of North Africa from Senegal to central Sudan. They were generally found in the arid borders between the Sahara and the Sahel in regions with rolling dunes and grassy steppes.

Diet
Scimitar-horned oryx are browsers that eat primarily annual grasses, but will also consume leaves, legumes, roots and fruit when available. Being nomadic these oryx will travel many miles in search of new grass which sprouts up quickly after sudden rains. They are well adapted to arid environments and are thus able to survive almost indefinitely without drinking water by utilizing the moisture found in the vegetation they eat.

Lifespan
Captive oryx have been documented living 20-28 years.

Predators
Formerly scimitar-horned oryx were hunted by lions, leopards and hyenas.

Reproduction
Sexual maturity: Male: 1.5-2 years, Female: 1.5-2 years
Mating Season: Year-round
Birth Season:     Peaks in March and October
Gestation:          8-8.5 months
No. of Young:     1

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Oryx, Scimitar-Horned