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