Hunted to the Brink of Extinction
Named for its long, blade-like horns, the scimitar-horned oryx is the largest mammal to have gone extinct in the wild the last 20-30 years. This extraordinary species once roamed freely in northern Africa, but suffered catastrophic declines, largely due to habitat loss, continued political strife, and poaching for its unique horns and hides. It now persists in ex situ (captive) populations where captive breeding programs have saved this antelope from extinction.
Conservation in Action
The size and charisma of this species has helped to motivate people to cooperate in preserving the scimitar-horned oryx. Worldwide, there are as many as 6,000 individuals living in captivity. The species does well under intensive management, but needs significant space and larger herd sizes to fully express its natural behavior. The scimitar-horned oryx is an ideal species to benefit from the unique resources of the Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2).
C2S2 has dedicated significant space, resources, and expertise to reverse the decline in oryx numbers in North American institutions. C2S2 is also a close partner of the Sahara Conservation Fund that is spearheading a reintroduction program of scimitar-horned oryx into Tunisia and Chad as part of its mission to sustain wildlife in the Sahelian-Sahara region of Africa. Animals produced by C2S2 institutions have been sent to Tunisia and Chad to support this effort. C2S2 is using the scimitar-horned oryx to evaluate a novel and more cost-effective technique, a ‘big herd approach,’ for improving the quality of offspring produced in captivity. The outcome of this research has the potential of changing the way we think about and actually best manage endangered ungulates.