When you look at the beautiful Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) does the word unicorn come to mind? Well, believe it or not, this animal has lead to the existence of unicorns! It may seem a little odd, but there is a reason for this nickname. When it is viewed from the side its two horns line up and look like one, thus a unicorn. Aside from possibly being a mystical creature this species is memorable for another reason, they are a conservation success story.
The dark days of near extinction
The Arabian Oryx can only be found on the Arabian Peninsula in an area known as Al Maha. Uncontrolled hunting across Arabia drove them to near extinction and in 1972 it was believed that the last wild Arabian Oryx was shot.
Bring back the Oryx
As the Arabian Oryx was disappearing the last few were captured and brought together with individuals from royal collections in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. From this stock a captive breeding and re-introduction program was launched. In 1982 the first Orxy was set free in Oman and its success showed that a captive animal could adapt to the wild. Through these conservation programs the Arabian Oryx has made a comeback and today there are 1,000 individuals in the wild.
Red List success story
According to the IUCN Red list, which tracks the conservation status of plants and animals, the Arabian Oryx revival has broken a record. The Arabian Oryx was once categorized as “Extinct in the Wild” as their populations bounced back they were moved to “Endangered” then they improved again and jumped to “Vulnerable”. This is the first time that a species once listed as “Extinct in the Wild” has improved in status by three full categories.
All about the Arabian Oryx
- This large species of antelope is very regal-looking, so much so that they have been heavily featured in Arabic poetry and paintings.
- The Arabian Oryx is especially adapted for living in extremely arid or dry environments. It has wide hooves that help them walk across sand and they can smell water from miles away!
- They live in small herds of around 8-10
- The Arabian Oryx feeds at dusk, finding tubers that are buried up to a half metre underground.