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Monday, September 9, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)

Arabian (White) Oryx

Oryx leucoryx (Pallas, 1766)

Range: Arabian Peninsula (Historic)
Habitat:  Desert (especially gravel or hard sand)
Diet: Grass, buds, tubers, fruits
Social Grouping: Mixed-Sex herds of 2-15 (sometimes form larger congregations)
Reproduction:  Female produces one calf a year during any month after a gestation period of 240 days; the young are weaned at 4.5 months, reproductive maturity is reached at 2.5-3.5 years
Lifespan: 20 Years (Captive)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered, CITES Appendix I

  • The smallest of the oryx species, standing 1 meter at the shoulder, measuring 1.5-2.3 meters long, and weighing 70 kilograms
  • Coats are white with brown undersides and legs, a black stripe where head meets neck; black is also present on the forehead and on face around the eye and mouth; a small mane runs from the head to the shoulders; males have tuft of hair on throat
  •  Both sexes have long, mostly straight ringed horns measuring 50-75 centimeters long (the horns of the female are longer and thinner); calves are born with horns
  • Oryxes can go several weeks without water, obtaining the moisture they need from plants in the diet
  • Will travel great distances in search of rain, and can detect it from afar; one herd in Oman is known to have ranged 3,000 square kilometers
  • Wolves are the only natural predator of adults; drought, malnutrition, disease, and snakebites are other leading causes of death
  •  Dig shallow depressions to lie in and rest during the hottest parts of the day
  •  Considered a possible source for the legendary unicorn, as they appear to have only one horn when seen in profile; the oryx is possibly the identity of the creature called the re’em from The Bible
  •  Species underwent dramatic decline due to hunting; in “Operation Oryx”, all of the known remaining Arabian oryx on earth were relocated to the Phoenix Zoo for an emergency breeding program.  Phoenix was chosen as it is climatically similar to Arabia
  • Reintroduction efforts began in 1982 in Oman, and have since expanded to include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and the UAE; the wild population now stands at 1,100, with a captive population at 6,000-7,000 animals

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