On the Brink!

The Plight of the Arabian Oryx

Background Information

The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) (or White Oryx) is a medium sized antelope with a distinct shoulder hump, long straight horns, and a tufted tail. It is a bovid and the smallest member of Oryx genus. historically the Arabian Oryx ranged over most of the Arabian Peninsula, the Sinai Peninsula, Israel, Jordan and Iraq. Today, the Arabian Oryx lives only in special protected reserves in Oman, Saudi because of extinction in the wild. The Arabian Oryx was extinct in the wild by the early 1970s, but was saved in zoos and private preserves and reintroduced into the wild starting in 1980.

The Arabian oryx is an antelope that is highly specialized for its harsh desert environment. The bright white coat reflects the sun’s rays and the hooves are splayed and shovel-like, providing a large surface area with which to walk on the sandy ground.

Location of the Arabian Oryx

The Fate of the Oryx and What Lies Ahead

Threats to the White Oryx

Hunting was the primary reason for the demise of the wild Arabian Oryx. Its meat and hide were prized, as were its lengthy horns. The Northern herd was extirpated in the 1940's and with the availability of military-surplus equipment, sport hunters using four-wheel-drive vehicles, claimed the last of the wild Arabian Oryx in Arabia in the 1960's. Starting in 1963, with only seven animals, AZA-accredited zoos initiated a breeding program, although in 1972, the Arabian oryx was declared extinct in the wild.

Conservation Efforts for the Arabian Oryx

In 1962, a few months after their opening The Phoenix Zoo agreed to participate in Operation Oryx, at project to collect the last few remaining oryx in the wild, bring them into the Phoenix Zoo and breed up a herd for release back to the wild. In June of 1963, four oryx arrived at the zoo part of the group of seven initial oryx that would form the world herd. In 1972, Oryx were considered extinct in the wild, but because of the Phoenix Zoo's effort in 1980, we were able to reintroduce Arabian oryx back into the wild. The current wild population estimate is approximately 1100 animals