Arabian Oryx
Overview
The Arabian Oryx or White Oryx is a medium sized antelope with a distinct shoulder hump, long straight horns, and a tufted tail. It is a bovid
Bovid
A bovid is any of almost 140 species of cloven-hoofed ruminant mammal at least the males of which bear characteristic unbranching horns covered in a permanent sheath of keratin....

, and the smallest member of Oryx
Oryx
Oryx is one of four large antelope species of the genus Oryx. Three of the species are native to arid parts of Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. Their pelage is pale with contrasing dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight...

 genus, native to desert and steppe areas of the Arabian peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

. The Arabian Oryx was extinct in the wild by the early 1970s, but was saved in zoos and private preserves and reintroduced into the wild
Arabian Oryx Reintroduction
The Arabian Oryx , also called the White Oryx, was extinct in the wild as of 1972, but was reintroduced to the wild starting in 1982. Initial reintroduction was primarily from two herds: the "World Herd" originally started at the Phoenix Zoo in 1963 from only nine oryx and the Saudi Arabian herd...

 starting in 1980.

In 1986 the Arabian Oryx was classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

, and in 2011 it was the first animal to receive Vulnerable
Vulnerable species
On 30 January 2010, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 9694 Vulnerable species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and sub-populations.-References:...

 status again after having been listed as Extinct in the Wild.
Encyclopedia
The Arabian Oryx or White Oryx is a medium sized antelope with a distinct shoulder hump, long straight horns, and a tufted tail. It is a bovid
Bovid
A bovid is any of almost 140 species of cloven-hoofed ruminant mammal at least the males of which bear characteristic unbranching horns covered in a permanent sheath of keratin....

, and the smallest member of Oryx
Oryx
Oryx is one of four large antelope species of the genus Oryx. Three of the species are native to arid parts of Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. Their pelage is pale with contrasing dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight...

 genus, native to desert and steppe areas of the Arabian peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

. The Arabian Oryx was extinct in the wild by the early 1970s, but was saved in zoos and private preserves and reintroduced into the wild
Arabian Oryx Reintroduction
The Arabian Oryx , also called the White Oryx, was extinct in the wild as of 1972, but was reintroduced to the wild starting in 1982. Initial reintroduction was primarily from two herds: the "World Herd" originally started at the Phoenix Zoo in 1963 from only nine oryx and the Saudi Arabian herd...

 starting in 1980.

In 1986 the Arabian Oryx was classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

, and in 2011 it was the first animal to receive Vulnerable
Vulnerable species
On 30 January 2010, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 9694 Vulnerable species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and sub-populations.-References:...

 status again after having been listed as Extinct in the Wild. It is listed in CITES Appendix I. As of 2011, populations were estimated at over 1000 individuals in the wild, and 6000–7000 individuals in captivity worldwide.

A Qatari Oryx named "Orry" was chosen as the official Games mascot for the 2006 Asian Games
2006 Asian Games
The 15th Asian Games, officially known as the XV Asiad, is Asia's Olympic-style sporting event that was held in Doha, Qatar from December 1 to December 15, 2006. Doha was the first city in its region and only the second in West Asia to host the games...

 in Doha
Doha
Doha is the capital city of the state of Qatar. Located on the Persian Gulf, it had a population of 998,651 in 2008, and is also one of the municipalities of Qatar...

.

Etymology

The taxonomic name Oryx leucoryx is from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 orux (Gazelle or Antelope) and leukos (white). The Arabian Oryx is also called the White Oryx in English, and is known as Maha, Wudhaihi, Baqar al Wash, and Boosolah in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

.

Russian zoologist Peter Simon Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas
Peter Simon Pallas was a German zoologist and botanist who worked in Russia.- Life and work :Pallas was born in Berlin, the son of Professor of Surgery Simon Pallas. He studied with private tutors and took an interest in natural history, later attending the University of Halle and the University...

 introduced "oryx" into scientific literature in 1767, applying the name to the African Eland as Antilope oryx (Pallas, 1767). In 1777, he transferred the name to the Cape Gemsbok. At the same time, he also described what we now call the Arabian Oryx as Oryx leucoryx, giving its range as "Arabia, and perhaps Libya." In 1816, Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville
Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville
Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville was a French zoologist and anatomist.Blainville was born at Arques, near Dieppe. In about 1796 he went to Paris to study painting, but he ultimately devoted himself to natural history, and attracted the attention of Georges Cuvier, for whom he occasionally...

 subdivided the antelope group, adopted Oryx as a genus name, and changed the Antilope oryx of Pallas to Oryx gazella (de Blainville, 1818). In 1926, Martin Lichtenstein
Martin Lichtenstein
Martin Hinrich Carl Lichtenstein was a German physician, explorer, zoologist, and herpetologist.-Biography:...

 confused matters by transferring the name Oryx leucoryx to the Scimitar-horned Oryx (now Oryx dammah) which was found in the Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 by the German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 naturalists Wilhelm Friedrich Hemprich and Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg
Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg
Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg , German naturalist, zoologist, comparative anatomist, geologist, and microscopist, was one of the most famous and productive scientists of his time.- Early collections :...

 (Lichtenstein, 1826). The Arabian Oryx was then nameless until the first living specimens in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 were donated to the Zoological Society of London
Zoological Society of London
The Zoological Society of London is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats...

 in 1857. Not realizing that this might be the Oryx leucoryx of previous authors, Dr. John Edward Gray
John Edward Gray
John Edward Gray, FRS was a British zoologist. He was the elder brother of George Robert Gray and son of the pharmacologist and botanist Samuel Frederick Gray ....

 proposed calling it Oryx beatrix after HRH The Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom
Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom
The Princess Beatrice was a member of the British Royal Family. She was the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Juan Carlos, King of Spain, is her great-grandson...

 (Gray, 1857). Though this name was to persist for many years, Oldfield Thomas
Oldfield Thomas
Oldfield Thomas FRS was a British zoologist.Thomas worked at the Natural History Museum on mammals, describing about 2,000 new species and sub-species for the first time. He was appointed to the Museum Secretary's office in 1876, transferring to the Zoological Department in 1878...

 renamed the Scimitar-horned Oryx as Oryx algazal in 1903 (it has since been renamed Oryx dammah), and gave the Arabian Oryx back its original name. The confusion between the two species has been exacerbated by the fact that both have been called White Oryx in English.

Anatomy and morphology

Arabian Oryx stand about 1 metres (39.4 in) high at the shoulder and weigh around 70 kilograms (154.3 lb). Their coats are an almost luminous white, their undersides and legs are brown, and there are black stripes where the head meets the neck, on the forehead, on the nose and going from the horn down through the eye to the mouth. Both sexes have long straight or slightly curved ringed horns which are 50 to 75 cm (19.7 to 29.5 in) long.

Arabian Oryx rest during the heat of the day and can detect rainfall and will move towards it, meaning that they have huge ranges; a herd in Oman
Oman
Oman , officially called the Sultanate of Oman , is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the...

 can range over 3000 square kilometres (1,158.3 sq mi). Herds are of mixed sex and usually contain between two and fifteen animals, though herds of up to one hundred have been reported. Arabian Oryx are generally not aggressive toward one another, which allows herds to exist peacefully for some time.

Other than humans, wolves are the Arabian Oryx's only predator
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

. In captivity
Captivity (animal)
Animals that live under human care are in captivity. Captivity can be used as a generalizing term to describe the keeping of either domesticated animals or wild animals. This may include for example farms, private homes and zoos...

 and good conditions in the wild, Oryx have a life span
Maximum life span
Maximum life span is a measure of the maximum amount of time one or more members of a population has been observed to survive between birth and death.Most living species have at least one upper limit on the number of times cells can divide...

 of up to twenty years. In periods of drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

, however, the Arabian Oryx's life expectancy may be significantly reduced by malnutrition
Malnutrition
Malnutrition is the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess , or in the wrong proportions....

 and dehydration
Dehydration
In physiology and medicine, dehydration is defined as the excessive loss of body fluid. It is literally the removal of water from an object; however, in physiological terms, it entails a deficiency of fluid within an organism...

. Other causes of death include fights between males, snakebites, disease, and drowning during floods.

Distribution and habitat

Historically the Arabian Oryx probably ranged throughout most of the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. In the early 1800s they could still be found in the Sinai, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, the Transjordan
Transjordan
The Emirate of Transjordan was a former Ottoman territory in the Southern Levant that was part of the British Mandate of Palestine...

, much of Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, and most of the Arabian peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the range of the Arabian Oryx was pushed back towards Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, and by 1914 there were only a few survivors outside that country. There were a few reports of Arabian Oryx in Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 into the 1930s, but by the mid 1930s the only remaining populations were in the Nafud Desert in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia and the Rub' al Khali in the South.

In the 1930s, Arabian princes and oil company clerks started hunting Arabian Oryx with automobiles and rifles. Hunts grew in size, and some were reported to employ as many as 300 vehicles. By the middle of the twentieth century, the Northern population was effectively extinct. The last Arabian Oryx in the wild prior to reintroduction were reported in 1972.

Arabian Oryx prefer to range in gravel desert or hard sand where the speed and endurance will protect them from most predators, as well as most hunters on foot. In the sand deserts in Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Oryx used to be found in the hard sand areas of the flats between the softer dunes and ridges.

Arabian Oryx have been reintroduced to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. There is a small introduced population on Hawar Island, Bahrain and large semi-managed populations at several sites in Qatar and UAE. The total reintroduced population is now ca.1,000, so well over the threshold of 250 mature individuals needed to qualify for Endangered.

Feeding ecology

The diet of the Arabian Oryx consists mainly of grass
Grass
Grasses, or more technically graminoids, are monocotyledonous, usually herbaceous plants with narrow leaves growing from the base. They include the "true grasses", of the Poaceae family, as well as the sedges and the rushes . The true grasses include cereals, bamboo and the grasses of lawns ...

, but it will eat a large variety of vegetation. This can include tree
Tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, bud
Bud
In botany, a bud is an undeveloped or embryonic shoot and normally occurs in the axil of a leaf or at the tip of the stem. Once formed, a bud may remain for some time in a dormant condition, or it may form a shoot immediately. Buds may be specialized to develop flowers or short shoots, or may have...

s, herb
Herb
Except in botanical usage, an herb is "any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume" or "a part of such a plant as used in cooking"...

s, fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

, tuber
Tuber
Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season and they are a means of asexual reproduction...

s and root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

s. Herds of Arabian Oryx follow infrequent rains to eat the new plants that grow afterward. The Arabian Oryx can go several weeks without water. Research in Oman has found that grasses of the genus Stipagrostis are primarily taken; flowers from Stipagrostis plants appeared highest in crude protein and water, while leaves seemed a better food source with other vegetation.

Behavioral ecology

When the oryx is not wandering their habitat or eating they dig shallow depressions in soft ground under shrubs or trees for resting. They are able to detect rainfall from a distance and follow in the direction of fresh plant growth. The number of individuals in herd can vary greatly (up to 100 have been reported occasionally), but the average is 10 or fewer individuals. Bachelor herds do not occur, and single territorial males are rare. Herds establish a straightforward hierarchy that involves all females and males above the age of about seven months. Arabian Oryx tend to maintain visual contact with other herd members, subordinate males taking positions between the main body of the herd and the outlying females. If separated, males will search areas where the herd last visited, settling into a solitary existence until the herd's return. Where water and grazing conditions permit, male oryx establish territories. Bachelor males are solitary. A dominance hierarchy is created within the herd by posturing displays which avoid the danger of serious injury that their long, sharp horns could potentially inflict. Males and females use their horns to defend the sparse territorial resources against interlopers.

Importance to humans

The Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 word re’em
Re’em
Re'em', also called Reëm , a beast mentioned nine times in the Bible and translated as "unicorn" in the Authorized King James Version, has been suggested by some modern Bible scholars, such as Johann Ulrich Duerst, to be based on the Akkadian cognate rimu, as Bos primigenius, the aurochs,...

may refer to the Arabian Oryx, although this word could also refer to the extinct Aurochs
Aurochs
The aurochs , the ancestor of domestic cattle, were a type of large wild cattle which inhabited Europe, Asia and North Africa, but is now extinct; it survived in Europe until 1627....

, or some other type of horned mammal. In the King James Version of the Bible
King James Version of the Bible
The Authorized Version, commonly known as the King James Version, King James Bible or KJV, is an English translation of the Christian Bible by the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611...

 the word “re’em” is translated as “unicorn", and the legend of the Unicorn
Unicorn
The unicorn is a legendary animal from European folklore that resembles a white horse with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead, and sometimes a goat's beard...

 may have originated in part from the Arabian Oryx which can appear to have only one horn when seen in profile.

Conservation

The Phoenix Zoo
Phoenix Zoo
The Phoenix Zoo opened in 1962 and is the largest non-profit zoo in the United States. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the zoo was founded by Robert Maytag, a member of the Maytag family, and operates on of land in the Papago Park area of Phoenix. It has been designated as a Phoenix Point of...

 and the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society of London (now Fauna & Flora International), with financial help from the World Wildlife Fund, are credited with saving the Arabian Oryx from extinction. In 1962, these groups started the first captive-breeding herd in any zoo
Zoo
A zoological garden, zoological park, menagerie, or zoo is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred....

, at the Phoenix Zoo, sometimes referred to as "Operation Oryx". Starting with 9 animals, the Phoenix Zoo has had over 200 successful births. From Phoenix, Oryx were sent to other zoos and parks to start new herds.

Arabian Oryx were hunted to extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 in the wild by 1972. By 1980 the number of Arabian Oryx in captivity had increased to the point that reintroduction to the wild
Arabian Oryx Reintroduction
The Arabian Oryx , also called the White Oryx, was extinct in the wild as of 1972, but was reintroduced to the wild starting in 1982. Initial reintroduction was primarily from two herds: the "World Herd" originally started at the Phoenix Zoo in 1963 from only nine oryx and the Saudi Arabian herd...

 was started. The first release, to Oman, was attempted with Oryx from the San Diego Wild Animal Park
San Diego Wild Animal Park
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, formerly known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park, is a zoo in the San Pasqual Valley area of San Diego, California, near Escondido. It is one of the largest tourist attractions in San Diego County. The Park houses a large array of wild and endangered animals including...

. Although numbers in Oman have declined, there are now wild populations in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 as well. One of the largest populations is found in Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area
Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area
The Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area is a 220,000 ha large protected area in central Saudi Arabia. The area is totally fenced and protection from livestock grazing has allowed a spectacular recovery of native vegetation...

, a large fenced reserve in Saudi Arabia, covering more than 2000 km².

In June 2011, the Arabian Oryx was re-listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

. The IUCN estimates there are more than 1000 Arabian Oryx in the wild, with 6000-7000 held in captivity worldwide in zoos, preserves, and private collections. Some of these are in large fenced enclosures (free-roaming), including those in Syria (Al Talila), Bahrain, Qatar, and UAE. This is the first time the IUCN has re-classified a species as Vulnerable after it had been listed as Extinct in the Wild. The Arabian Oryx is also listed in CITES Appendix I.

On June 28, 2007, Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
Arabian Oryx Sanctuary
The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary in the Omani Central Desert and Coastal Hills. Within its boundaries are found rare fauna, including a free-ranging herd of Arabian oryx, the first since the species' extinction in the wild in 1972, and subsequent reintroduction in 1982 at this...

 was the first site ever to be removed from the UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage List. UNESCO's reason for this was the Omani government's decision to open 90% of the site to oil prospecting. The Arabian Oryx population on the site has been reduced from 450 Oryx in 1996 to only 65 in 2007. There are now fewer than four breeding pairs left on the site.

External links

  • images and movies of the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) at ARKive
    ARKive
    ARKive is a global initiative with the mission of "promoting the conservation of the world's threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery", which it does by locating and gathering films, photographs and audio recordings of the world's species into a centralised digital archive. Its...

  • Living Desert article
  • Arabian Oryx at Al Wabra Wildlife Preserve
  • Oryx leucoryx on Animal Diversity Web
    Animal Diversity Web
    Animal Diversity Web is an online database that collects the natural history, classification, species characteristics, conservation biology, and distribution information of thousands of species of animals...

  • Oryx leucoryx on Mammal Species of the World
    Mammal Species of the World
    Mammal Species of the World, now in its 3rd edition, is a standard reference work in zoology giving descriptions and bibliographic data for the known species of mammals.An updated Third Edition of Mammal Species of the World was published late in 2005:...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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