Oryx, a rare species of antelope that has been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years, is now thriving in a national zoo in Chad.
The white-bodied Oryx was reintroduced to its native habitat in Chad from a private zoo in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, by a team of local scientists last year and has already started breeding, according to the Smithsonian Insider.
The animal, which can now be found in plenty in the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, is a scimitar-horned Oryx that is well adapted to the hot, arid temperatures of the steppes and sub-deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.
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“This ambitious and historic recovery effort was made possible by the establishment of a ‘world herd’ of scimitar-horned Oryx in Abu Dhabi and a decades-long history of excellence in the care and management of this species,” Steve Monfort, the John & Adrienne Mars director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), said during the reintroduction of the Oryx in Chad last year.
“Restoring Oryx to the wild will have a huge and positive impact on the conservation and management of the entire Sahelian grasslands ecosystem.”
Building a Self-Sustaining Population
Monfort said the antelope’s reintroduction program is a result of a successful cooperation between the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the government of Chad.
The program, which seeks to restore the species to its rightful place in the wild, is comprised of a team of researchers from the SCBI and rangers trained by the EAD and the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF).
This initiative was started in March 2016, when a herd of 25 young Oryx was airlifted from Abu Dhabi to the Ouadi Rime-Ouadi ACHIM Game Reserve in Chad.
Before the herd was released to the game reserve, each Oryx was fitted with a GPS-satellite collar to make it easier for scientists and rangers to monitor it and collect information about its progress.
The reintroduction program is expected to build a self-sustaining population of at least 500 wild Oryx over the next five years.
The EAD is also developing a genetically diverse “world herd” of this rare species by cross breeding antelopes originally from the United States, Europe, and the United Arab Emirates.
The scimitar-horned Oryx is a desert antelope built to thrive in extreme temperatures and was officially declared extinct in the wild in 2000 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The largest single population of this type of antelope in the world today is estimated to be 3,000 Oryx and lives under human care in the United Arab Emirates.