Thursday, February 23, 2017

Extinct Oryx Returns to Nature

ICUN put the scmitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) on its "extinct in the wild" list in 2008.  Conservationists from London's Zoological Society were not willing to just let the beautiful antelope with impressive backward curving horns die out.  Fourteen captive bred oryx were translocated to a remote reserve in Chad this January joining  twenty-one others already living in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve.  The antelope are reported to be thriving in their protected habitat on the edge of the Sahara Desert.  The first wild born oryx is believed to have been born in September of last year breaking a reproductive drought that has lasted twenty years.  The animals are wearing telemetry collars and receive supplemental feeding, but because they are doing well, conservationists think they can survive on their own [photo credits: ZSL].

Oryx were a victim of civil war and habitat destruction in the 80s and 90s.  The government of Chad partnered with Abu Dahbi's environment department and the Zoological Society [video] to establish a captive breeding program in the Reserve. ZSL contributed two oryx from its famous Whipsnade Zoo park. The release into the wild culminates decades of cooperative effort to bring the antelope back from extinction.  The reintroduction program received the support of local pastoralists, which the Reserve supports in large numbers.  The oryx, also called the white oryx, can be seen grazing among their camel herds.  The program's eventual goal is to reintroduce 500 oryx to form a self-sustaining herd.  The next group of 37 is scheduled to be released in August.