Oryx dammah (*)
Oryx dammah (Cretzschmar, 1827)
* IUCN link: Oryx dammah (Cretzschmar, 1826) (Extinct In The Wild)
The Scimitar Oryx, or Scimitar-Horned Oryx, (Oryx dammah) is a species of oryx which formerly inhabited the whole of North Africa. It has been classified as extinct in the wild by the IUCN.
The Scimitar Oryx is just over a metre (3.28 ft) at the shoulder and weighs around two hundred kilograms (440 lbs). Its coat is white with a red-brown chest and black markings on the forehead and down the length of the nose. The horns are long, thin and symmetrical and curve backwards (like a scimitar) and can reach a metre to a metre and a quarter (3.28 - 4.1 ft) on both the male and the female.
Scimitar Oryx natively inhabit steppe and desert where they eat leaves, grass and fruit. They form herds of mixed sex containing up to seventy animals. Formerly they would gather in groups of several thousand for migration. Scimitar Oryx can survive without water for many weeks, because their kidneys prevent loss of water from urination and they can modify their body temperature to avoid perspiration.
Scimitar Oryx were hunted for their horns, almost to extinction. Where once they occupied the whole Sahara, they are now considered to be extinct in the wild, with no confirmed sightings in the wild for over 15 years. Although there have been unconfirmed sightings in Chad and Niger, these reports have never been substantiated, despite extensive surveys that were carried out throughout Chad and Niger in 2001-2004 in an effort to detect Sahelo-Saharan antelopes.
A global captive breeding programme was initiated in the 1960s. In 1996, there were at least 1,250 captive animals held in zoos and parks around the world with a further 2,145 on ranches in Texas. A herd exists in a fenced nature preserve in Tunisia, and is being expanded with plans for reintroduction to the wild in that country.
A female calf was born in the National Zoo center in Front Royal, Virginia on April 16, 2010, increasing the Smithsonian's herd to 17.
It has been suggested that the myth of the one-horned unicorn may originate from sightings of injured scimitar oryxes; Aristotle and Pliny the Elder held that the oryx was the unicorn's "prototype". From certain angles, the oryx may be mistaken for having one horn instead of two, and given that its horns are made from hollow bone which cannot be regrown, if an oryx were to lose one of its horns, it would, for the rest of its life, have only one horn. When such an injury is caused to one of these family-oriented animals, there is a tendency in the herd to ostracize the one animal that does not have two horns. Early man would most likely have so much interaction with these beasts that they would recognize the animal's circumstance; however, it is plausible that the humans living during that time would mistake this animal for a different beast entirely. The Scimitar-horned Oryx is one of the largest species of oryx, so it could resemble the same size and weight of a small horse or pony.
1. ^ a b c d IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Oryx dammah. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 9 September 2009.Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct in the wild.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License