The scimitar-horned oryx is impressively adapted for survival in the harshest desert conditions, able to live for as long as 10 months without drinking water. But unfortunately it hasn’t been able to withstand human pressures. Hunted to the edge of extinction by the 1980s, the species has been listed as Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN since 2000. Captive breeding programs have kept the species going, and now an ambitious reintroduction program aiming to bring the species back in its native Chad is making progress.
The program released 25 scimitar-horned oryx into the wild in April as part of the reintroduction strategy. More positive news follows that release, with the birth of a calf in Chad for the first time in 30 years.
The National reports this week:
“A scimitar-horned oryx was born in its native Chad for the first time in three decades thanks to help from a UAE environmental group. The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi said the oryx had been born as part of the reintroduction programme it is leading in the Sahelian grasslands of Chad, in collaboration with the local government and the Sahara Conservation Fund. The calf’s mother was part of the first herd transferred from the agency’s breeding centre.”
The news from Chad instills hope for the species’ future in the wild. Conservationists hope to have a self-sustaining population of 500 scimitar-horned oryx within five years.
"To have a population that is already self-generating is a very positive sign for the future success of this project, but also a beacon of hope for the conservation community," Razan Al Mubarak, Ead’s secretary general, told the press.
"Restoring oryx to the wild will have a huge and positive impact on the conservation and management of the entire Sahelian grasslands ecosystem," stated the Smithsonian National Zoo in April. "We are thrilled to play a role in this incredible partnership designed to restore the species to its rightful place in the wild."
Currently populations of the species are also living within fenced enclosures in protected areas of Tunisia and Senegal.