Scimitar-horned Oryx

Oryx dammah

Scimitar-horned oryx is a significant, both culturally and ecologically. Once extinct in the wild, efforts from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, the Sahara Conservation Fund, Chadian government, the Zoological Society of London, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute have reintroduced a population of once-captive individuals to Chad.

Facts

Height: 1.4m tall at the shoulder (4.6ft)

Weight: 100-210kg (220-460 lbs)

Conservation Status: Extinct in the Wild

Scimitar-horned oryx can tolerate an internal body temperature of 47 C (116 F).

Tracking

The scimitar-horned oryx has existed only in captivity for the past 30 years. Driven to extinction by over-hunting and scarce resources, the species was bred in captivity for decades and closely monitored to promote genetic diversity and health. In 2012, a partnership of international agencies and organizations, including the Environmental Agency- Abu Dhabi, the Sahara Conservation Fund, the Chadian government, the Zoological Society of London, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, began working to reintroduce this species into its former range. In August 2016, 21 individuals were reintroduced into a large protected area in Chad. There have been two more releases since then, with approximately 106 Scimitar-horned oryx in the wild to date — 69 adults and 37 calves and yearlings. At least three calves have been conceived in the wild, a promising forecast for this reintroduction effort.

A major part of monitoring the success and survival of this species is tracking the individuals with GPS collars. Each adult is fitted with a GPS/satellite collar in order to monitor their movement patterns, social dynamics, and resource utilization during the critical initial stages of release into the wild. As with collaring any animal, there are limitations to this method of tracking. Collars remain on the animals for approximately two years, and include a “drop off” feature that allows the collars to be remotely removed from any animal at any time. Given that this is our first chance to understand how this species moves in its natural environment, the more movement data that that can be collected, the better. Movement of Life scientists are working with GPS tracking manufacturers to develop a solar-powered, horn-mounted GPS tag that can be fit on an oryx as young as one year old. This tag would be minimally invasive, expanding the data collection potential for each individual and leading to a greater understanding of the basic needs and habits of these individuals, as well as informing management practices during future releases. Projected implementation of this new method is 2019.

Meet the Team

Peter Leimgruber, Ph.D.

Conservation Biologist
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
Conservation Ecology Center

Katherine Mertes, Ph.D.

Conservation Biologist
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
Conservation Ecology Center

Melissa Songer, Ph.D.

Conservation Biologist
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
Conservation Ecology Center

Jared Stabach, Ph.D.

Ecologist, MoL Program Coordinator
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)
Conservation Ecology Center
National Zoological Park

Resources

Scholarly Articles

Iyengar, A., Gilbert, T., Woodfine, T., Knowles, J.M., Diniz, F.M., Brenneman, R.A., Louis Jr. E.E. & Maclean, N. (2007): Remnants of ancient genetic diversity preserved within captive groups of scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah).

Molecular Ecology 16:2436 - 2449. Newby, J.E. (1974): The ecological resources of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim faunal reserve. Report to the food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations, FAO.

Newby, J.E. (1978a): Scimitar-horned oryx – the end of the line? Oryx 14 (3): 219 –221.

Newby, J.E. (1978b): The scimitar-horned oryx – extinction or reprieve? Marwell Zoo Paper 24: 18 - 19.

Newby, J.E. (1988): Aridland wildlife in decline: the case of the scimitar-horned oryx. In: Conservation and biology of desert antelope (A. Dixon & D. Jones, Eds.). ZSL

Woodfine, T. & Gilbert, T. (2016) The fall and rise of the scimitar-horned oryx: a case study of ex-situ conservation and reintroduction in practice. In: Antelope Conservation in the 21st Century: From Diagnosis to Action (Eds. J.BrøJorgensen and D.Mallon). Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Woodfine, T., Gilbert, T. & Engel, H. (2005) A summary of past and present initiatives for the conservation and reintroduction of addax and scimitar-horned oryx in North Africa: 208 – 211. In: B.Hiddinga (Ed.) Proceedings of the EAZA conference 2004, Kolmarden. EAZA Executive Office, Amsterdam.

Collaborators

Environmental Agency-Abu Dhabi

Chadian Government

The Sahara Conservation Fund