March 10, 2010

Endangered Strangers: The Scimitar Oryx

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......
Zzzz...snort! Oh, hum, uh! Who goes there?

Oh, it's you, a huuuuman....Well, I'm an Oryx...a Scimitar Oryx to be precise. Sounds quite fearsome, no? Well it should. My razor sharp horns can kill in an instant! Kill dead, I tell you!

Hum. I say, do you mind getting this pesky itch behind my ear? Oh yes, right there, ummmmmm. My, that feels good. Well, I suppose I'll spare your life in this case.

Now do the other ear.


The Scimitar Oryx, sometimes called Scimitar-Horned Oryx, (Oryx dammah) is a species of large antelope which was once one of the most common large animals in Northern Africa. They inhabited sub-desert areas and were amazingly able to go without drinking for 9-10 months!

Scimitar Oryx populations rapidly declined throughout the 20th century, initially due to drought, with losses increasing dramatically as Europeans colonized the areas and hunted the Oryx for their meat, hides, and horn-trophies. WWII and the civil war in Chad probably also accounts for many more animals being killed for meat. By 1999, the species sadly had to be classed as Extinct in the Wild. Because Scimitar Orxy no longer inhabit their wild range, but individuals still remain in captivity, this species, while endangered, is given the special designation of "Extinct in the Wild."

Luckily, conservationists foresaw human beings bad behavior in this case, and a captive breeding program was begin in the 1960's. Captive Oryx now exist in zoos worldwide, as well as reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and have been reintroduced into Senegal and Israel (though this was not in their historic range.) As of 1996, this captive number was around 1,250. An additional 2,145 or so Scimitar Oryx exist on ranches in Texas, which sell the rights to trophy hunt the animals --- presenting an interesting ethical conundrum, where the animals are kept from extinction by virtue of being bred for sport hunting. ESPP would be interested to hear your views on this, so please weigh in in the comments section!

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