Animal care staff at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) humanely euthanized an elderly male scimitar-horned oryx named Dr. Bob Dec. 14. A final pathology report will provide more information in the coming weeks. Dr. Bob was 18 years old. The median life expectancy for scimitar-horned oryx in human care is 15 years.
Born at SCBI in 1997 as the result of artificial insemination, the oryx was named Dr. Bob in honor of the veterinarian who assisted with the procedure. According to Dr. Bob's keepers, he had a good demeanor and was a favorite among the animal care staff. Most zoo animals participate in a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The SSP scientists determine which animals to breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health. Between 2010 and 2014, Dr. Bob sired two female and seven male offspring. Last year, he was listed as the second most valuable male in the scimitar-horned oryx SSP. SCBI has cared for and bred scimitar-horned oryx since 1975; today, it houses a herd of 24—11 males and 13 females.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the scimitar-horned oryx as extinct in the wild. Scimitar-horned oryx once lived in northern African countries of Egypt, Senegal and Chad. They are adapted for survival in extremely harsh desert conditions. They are mostly white with reddish brown necks and distinct facial markings with a long, dark, tufted tail. Their white coat helps reflect the heat of the desert while their body reacts instinctively when coping with a shortage of water. They can raise their body temperature by several degrees, up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, to conserve water by avoiding sweating.