Scientific name: Oryx dammah
Habitat: arid plains and deserts
Range: now extinct, once found in northern African
countries – Egypt, Senegal, Chad. Reintroduced
Conservation status: Extinct in the wild
Threats: habitat loss and over-hunting
Related research: C2S2’s Sustainable Herds Project
Hunted to the brink of extinction
Named for its long, thin, blade-like horns, the scimitar-horned oryx is the largest mammal to have gone extinct in the wild in the last 20 years. This extraordinary species once roamed freely in northern Africa, but largely due to habitat loss, continued political strife and over-hunting for its unique horns and hides, it has suffered catastrophic declines. Maintaining a captive population has saved the scimitar-horned oryx from an ultimate and finite fate – extinction.
Conservation in action
The size and grand charisma of this species has helped to motivate people to cooperate in preserving the scimitar-horned oryx. Worldwide, there are as many as 6,000 individuals living in captivity. The species actually thrives under intensive management, but because it lives in herds, prefers significant space to express its natural behaviors. Therefore, the scimitar-horned oryx is an ideal species to benefit from the unique resources of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival.
C2S2 had dedicated significant space resources and expertise to reverse what has been a trend in declining oryx numbers in North American institutions. The consortium also is close partner of the Sahara Conservation Fund that is dedicated to ensuring sustainable wildlife in the Sahelian-Sahara region of Africa while spearheading a reintroduction program of scimitar-horned oryx into the small African country of Tunisia. Animals produced by C2S2 institutions have been sent to Tunisia to support this effort. Lastly, C2S2 is using the scimitar-horned oryx to evaluate novel and more cost-effective technique , a ‘big herd approach’ for improving the quality of offspring produced. The outcome of this research has the potential of changing the way we think about and actually best manage endangered ungulates. Learn more about C2S2’s Sustainable Herds Project