Tuesday, November 18, 2014
An Oryx Sequel
One of the earliest triumphs of modern zoo biology has been the rescue of the Arabian oryx. From the tiny nucleus of nine animals that formed the world herd at the Phoenix Zoo*, sufficient animals were bred in captivity to allow the reestablishment of wild populations throughout the Middle East.
History is being repeated... only this time, with the even more endangered scimitar-horned oryx. While reasonably common in zoos, game parks, and private collections around the world, the scimitar-horned oryx has been driven to extinction in its native North Africa by hunting, competition for resources, and desertification. Zoo professionals and biologists from four continents have collaborated to send 100 captive-bred oryx back to Chad, where they will form the first attempt to reintroduce this beautiful desert-dweller back into the wild. If successful, these will be the first wild members of their species in 15 years.
The best of luck to those animals which are given the chance to reclaim the homeland of their species... and congratulations to all those involved who have worked tirelessly to make this possible. Amid the doom and gloom that so often characterizes conservation efforts today, it's always wonderful and inspiring when we see a species take one step back from the edge of extinction.