Scimitar-horned oryx returns to Sahara

After nearly a 20-year absence, an iconic ruminant is reintroduced to its desert home. 

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Oryx released into Sahara
Monumental moment: scimitar-horned oryx are released into holding enclosure. © ZSL

 

Fourteen scimitar-horned oryx, currently classified as Extinct in the Wild, have been successfully released to a remote region of Chad at the edge of the Sahara desert.  

“It’s been a privilege to play a part in returning this iconic species to its original homeland,” said Tim Wacher, a  Zoological Society of London (ZSL) conservationist.

“Releasing these animals back into their native arid grassland landscape after two decades of absence was an emotional moment for all involved.”

The captive-bred antelopes have joined a herd of 21 that were released in August 2016 and are now thriving in their new habitat.

One female from the first reintroduction has already given birth – the calf is the first scmitar-horned oryx to be born in the wild for more than 20 years. 

Once widespread across the southern Sahara, the scimitar-horned oryx was rapidly driven to extinction during a period of extended civil unrest in the 1980s and 1990s. 

A breeding programme was established in the United Arab Emirates alongside zoos around the world, including ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in the UK, to maintain a viable back-up population of these animals.

This project is a joint initiative involving the Government of Chad and Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD), with support from ZSL.

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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