Scimitar-horned oryx

At risk in the wild

Scimitar-horned orxy numbers have declined rapidly as a result of desertification from drought, habitat loss due to rain fed agriculture, civil war and human conflict as well as competition with livestock and increasing pastoralism. 

This species has essentially gone from abundance to extinction within a few decades (WAZA 2012) and in the early 1990’s this species became extinct in the wild.

Saving the Scimitar-horned oryx

In captivity Scimitar-horned oryx are intensively managed through an EEP (Endangered Species Breeding Programme) which aims to maintain a genetically diverse and stable population.

To ensure the best long term management decisions are made for this species the scimitar-horned oryx EEP is composed of a coordinator and several Species Committee members. 

Senior Keeper, Lindsay Banks sits on this Species Committee whose role is to assist the coordinator in management decisions.  This EEP is an extremely proactive programme and has been involved in a number of conservation initiatives alongside the Sahara Conservation Fund.

The EEP has been funding monitoring and habitat restoration projects, publicising awareness of the plight of this species and assisting in the building of ‘world herds’ to provide adequate stocks for future reintroduction to the wild.

The release of captive bred scimitar-horned oryx from the EEP has occurred in fenced reserves in Tunisia, Morrocco and Senegal. In 2015 the EEP assisted a ground breaking project to reintroduce free-ranging Scimitar-horned oryx into a national park in Chad. This was the largest antelope reintroduction ever carried out. 15 animals from the EEP, along with animals from zoos in the USA, were sent to genetically supplement the animals already held in Abu Dhabi. These animals will form a founding population, which in turn will breed to produce oryx for reintroduction to Chad.