Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Last Three Addax?

Perhaps the last three wild addax, (Addax nasomaculatus), a desert-adapted antelope of the Sahara, where counted by IUCN in March. The international conservation organization blamed soldiers hired by the Chinese National Oil Corporation for poaching the few remaining addax for food. A survey done in 2010 counted only 200 of the beautiful white-coated antelope [photo]. According to IUCN, Chinese oil operations in Niger have decimated the addax, bringing it to the razor's edge of extinction. The animal is protected under law, but that status has not prevented opportunistic, unethical security personnel from killing them all. After eighteen hours of flight time along 2000 miles of transects in former addax habitat only three "very nervous" individuals were found by ground searchers. Without immediate and total intervention, the wild addax will disappear from the face of the Earth. Capture and removal to a protected reserve or zoo may be the only answer to insure wild addax survival, although there are captive-bred populations in existence that could be reintroduced.

Captive bred addax are hunted for "sport" in Texas. The animal's long, spiral horns and white hide are prized by trophy seekers. The federal government adopted new rules in 2012 rescinding the blanket exception to the Endangered Species Act for three species of curved-horn African antelope.  Hunting for captive addax now requires two permits and a couple of hundred dollars, but even that small amount of government "red tape" is too much for bloody-minded Texans.  Many of the antelope ranches have disposed of their exotic trophies on the hoof.

Not only is poaching causing wild addax extinction, but climate change will reduce antelope habitat by as much as half according to a study published in the journal, Current Biology. Eighty-two percent of Africa's 72 antelope species will be affected by 2080. Besides being an important prey species for top predators like the lion, antelope spread plant seeds in their dung and are vital to a healthy ecosystem.