Arabian Oryx

Category: Wildlife

The Arabian oryx is the smallest member of the Oryx genus, which is composed of antelopes with long, thin, usually straight horns. The Arabian oryx lives in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, and is considered a success story as it was once declared extinct in the wild, but has since been reintroduced and is now believed to number more than 1,000 individuals in the wild.

Arabian Oryx

Arabian Oryx

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Artiodactyla

Family - Bovidae

Subfamily - Hippotraginae

Genus - Oryx

Species - O. leucoryx

Common Names – Arabian Oryx, White Oryx

Characteristics

The Arabian oryx has a largely white coat, with dark brown legs and black markings on its face. Like most other oryx antelopes, it has long, straight horns on its head on both males and females. They grow just over three feet high at the shoulder and can weigh up to 150 lbs. Their horns can measure up to 30 inches in length.

Breeding

Females give birth to one calf after a gestation period of up to 270 days. Maturity is reached in just over a year. There is no fixed mating season, thus breeding occurs year round. Males will fight over females using their horns; these can result in injuries or sometimes even death.

Behavior

Arabian oryx travel in small herds, using their ability to detect rain to seek out vegetation to eat. Their main predator beyond humans is the Arabian wolf. During hot days, they will carve out shallow depressions under shrubs to rest in and cool off. Their white skin also helps to reflect heat. Their harsh habitat can be unforgiving, and Arabian oryx are susceptible to drought, disease, snakebites and drowning.

History

It is believed that the oryx may have given rise to the myth of the unicorn, with individuals who may have lost one of their horns being perceived as single-horned horses.

The Arabian oryx is a symbolically important animal in its native region, and is the national animal of Bahrain, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, as well as lending its local name (Al Maha) to many businesses.

Present Status

The Arabian oryx is currently listed as "Vulnerable" though at one time it was considered to be extinct in the wild. Captive breeding programs allowed for animals to be reintroduced into the wild in 1980, and the current population is estimated to be around 1,000 animals.

Though it is considered a success story, it is still under threat, mainly from habitat loss. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman was severely reduced in size in 2007 to allow for oil drilling over much of its former area, causing serious harm to the local herd of Arabian oryx.