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This antelope once roamed the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula, extending into Israel, Iraq and as far north as Syria. Once widespread, hunting devastated the wild population and outside of captivity, the Arabian oryx became extinct in 1972. Reintroduction efforts have been relatively successful, and the population inhabits arid plains and deserts. They prefer sand and gravel plains, and are well-adapted to the harsh conditions of their habitat.
Arabian oryx enjoy the company of each other and tend to form large herds when the environmental conditions are favorable. The size of the herd will shrink when necessary to accommodate a single family unit. Males are more solitary than females and will stake out expansive territories for their own. Females can give birth at any time of the year, which usually results in one calf per year. The Arabian oryx can exist well in large groups, which makes it conducive for more than one family unit to live in the same area.
The life expectancy of the Arabian oryx is around 20 years in captivity.
The Arabian oryx are herbivores; they feed on the available grasses and herbs they can find in their environment as well as tubers and roots if necessary. They do not require free water for long periods of time, surviving on indirect water sources from the plants that they eat. Their perceptivity of rainfall allows them to follow the scent of rain to potential new food sources, such as fresh grass.
Over 1,000 Oryx have been reintroduced in the wild, and 6-7,000 live in captivity.
The Arabian oryx is highly specialized for its environment; its white fur reflects light and its hooves have adapted to withstand the desert heat. These adaptations allow the animal to remain at a comfortable temperature in its habitat. They have a keen sense of awareness of rainfall, even at extreme distances.
Why are they endangered?
The main threat to the Arabian oryx has historically been overzealous hunting practices, illegal poaching and drought. They have also had issues with illegal capture for sale in some sanctuaries. Overgrazing has reduced the quality of their habitat, posing a threat to their survival as well.