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Oryx is one of three or four large antelope species of the genus Oryx, typically having long, straight, almost-upright or swept-back horns. Two or three of the species are native to Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. Small populations of several oryx species, such as the "Scimitar Oryx", exist in Texasmarker and New Mexicomarker, USAmarker as captive populations on wild game ranches.


The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)(Arabic: المها), the smallest species, became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Omanmarker but poaching has had negative effects. Further populations have been reintroduced in Qatarmarker, Bahrainmarker, Israelmarker, Jordanmarker and Saudi Arabiamarker, with a total population in the wild of about 886 in 2003[40110]. About 600 more are in captivity.

The Scimitar Oryx, also called Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah), of North Africa is now possibly extinct in the wild. However, there are unconfirmed reports of surviving populations in central Nigermarker and Chadmarker, and a population currently inhabiting a fenced nature reserve in Tunisiamarker is being expanded for reintroduction to the wild in that country[40111]. On July 22, 2009 16 Scimitar Oryx were photographed in open pasture in central Brewster County, Texasmarker, USA.

The East African Oryx inhabits eastern Africa, and the closely-related Gemsbok inhabits all of eastern and southern Africa. Both are considered threatened species. Between 1969 and 1977, the New Mexicomarker Department of Game and Fish released 93 Gemsbok into the White Sands Missile Rangemarker in New Mexicomarker and that population is now estimated between 3,000 and 6,000 animals[40112]. The classification of these two animals varies between experts. One system has the Gemsbok as one species (Oryx gazella), and the East African Oryx as another (Oryx beisa) with two subspecies of its own, the East African Oryx "proper" (Oryx beisa beisa) and the Fringe-eared oryx (Oryx beisa calliotis). The other system has one Oryx gazella species, with three subspecies: Oryx gazella gazella, Oryx gazella beisa, and Oryx gazella calliotis.


African Oryxes
Mounted oryxes on display

All oryx species prefer near-desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods. They live in herds of up to 600 animals. Newborn calves are able to run with the herd immediately after birth. Both males and females possess permanent horns. The horns are narrow, and straight except in the scimitar oryx, where they curve backwards like a scimitar. The horns are lethal—the oryx has been known to kill lions with them—and oryxes are thus sometimes called the sabre antelope. The horns also make the animals a prized game trophy, which has led to the near-extinction of the two northern species.


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