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Scimitar-horned Oryx

Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus and Species: Oryx dammah

Both male and female scimitar-horned oryx have curved horns that grow to be several feet long.

Physical Description

Scimitar-horned oryx are mostly white with reddish brown necks and marks on the face and a long, dark, tufted tail. The white coat helps reflect the heat of the desert.

Size

These desert antelope stand up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) tall at the shoulder, and their head and body length is between 1.5 and 2.3 meters (4.9 to 7.5 feet), plus a long tail. They weigh between 100 and 210 kilograms (220 to 460 pounds).

Status

The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species lists scimitar-horned oryx as extinct in the wild.

Geographic Distribution

Now extinct in the wild, scimitar-horned oryx once lived in northern African countries of Egypt, Senegal, and Chad. They have been reintroduced in Tunisia.

Habitat

These oryx once lived in arid plains and deserts, and, to a lesser extent, rocky hillsides and thick brush.

Natural Diet

Scimitar-horned oryx eat grasses, herbs, juicy roots, and buds.

National Zoo Diet

The Zoo's oryx eat grass hay, herbivore (hay) pellets, and grass.

Scimitar-horned oryx calf and adult

Reproduction

About eight to eight and a half months after mating, females give birth to a single calf weighing about ten kilograms.

Life Span

Some scientists belive scimitar-horned oryx live up to 20 years in the wild.

Behavior

Historically, these oryx lived in herds of 20 to 40 individuals, led by a single male. During migrations and times of plentiful water, herds of 1,000 or more were seen.

Past/Present/Future

A few causes that contributed to the extinction of scimitar-horned oryx in the wild include climate change, human encroachment on their habitat for agriculture, hunting, and excessive domestic livestock grazing on limited vegetation. Zoo populations of these desert antelope are thriving because of cooperation between North American and European zoos. One of the projects in which the Zoo participates is the establishment of a "world herd" genome resource bank.

Fun Fact

Scimitar-horned oryx have an interesting way of coping with a shortage of water. They are able to raise their body temperature by several degrees, up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, to conserve water by avoiding sweating.