I thought I’d add a Creature Feature to my blog, and since I’m an animal fanatic, it may as well be critter related. And I think the Oryx, all of the different species, is a worthy 1st stab at it.
From Wikipedia, the African Wildlife Foundation and Oman’s Ministry of Information:
Oryx is one of four large antelope species, including The Arabian Oryx, Gemsbok, Scimitar Oryx and East African Oryx . Three of the species are native to arid parts of Africa, with a fourth native to the Arabian Peninsula. The oryx, a large antelope with long, spear-like horns, is a true desert animal. It has a thick, horse-like neck with a short mane and a compact, muscular body. A defined pattern of black markings that contrast with the white face and fawn-colored body are prominently displayed in dominance rituals to emphasize the length of horns and strength of the shoulder.
The Arabian Oryx, the smallest species, became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Oman, but poaching has reduced their numbers there. One of the largest populations of Arabian Oryx exists on Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates. Additional populations have been reintroduced inQatar, Bahrain, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As of 2011 the total wild population is over 1000, and 6000–7000 are being held in captivity. In 2011 the IUCN downgraded its threat category from Extinct in the Wild to Vulnerable, the first species to have come back from Extinct in the Wild to Vulnerable status.
It’s natural habitat is a harsh climate and barren terrain with little water in which it sometimes has to cover distances of over 150 kilometres in search of new grazing. It can survive without water for long periods of time by drinking dew and fog water that has formed on the plants upon which it feeds. The oryx spends the heat of the day in the shade of trees during the hot season, only going out to graze and browse when it is cool. In winter it grazes in the daytime and shelters from cold winds at night.Well adapted to the conditions of their hot, arid habitats, oryx can live as long as 20 years.
The oryx has an unusual ability to interpret signals given by rain carried on the wind: this is particularly important for its survival in the desert. In response to these signals the dominant female oryx will lead a herd in search of the fresh pasture which will have resulted from the rainfall. The adult male oryx is usually territorial and rarely travels with the herds, that on average comprise 5 animals, usually females and their calves. Males will fight to defend females and territories from other males and this may result in injury or death.
The Scimitar Oryx, easily identified by its curved horns, of North Africa is now listed as possibly Extinct in the Wild. However, there are unconfirmed reports of surviving populations in central Niger and Chad, and a semi-wild population currently inhabiting a fenced nature reserve in Tunisia is being expanded for reintroduction to the wild in that country. Several thousand are held in captivity around the world.
The scimitar oryx is a very sociable animal; for this reason, they form herds of mixed sex (the sex ratio being 50:50) containing up to 70 animals. Though not observed, it is believed that bachelor males form their own herds. Formerly they would gather in groups of several thousand for migration. During the wet season, herds migrate north into the Sahara Desert. Most often in any particular herd there will be a dominant or alpha bull. Usually these bulls provide guidance to the herd for their movements. The males fight several times, but these fights do not last long and are not violent. Mostly weak and young oryx can be killed by predators like lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah, golden jackal, vulture and Cape hunting dog.
The oryx can tolerate high temperatures that would be lethal to most mammals. They have a network of fine blood vesselsthat carry blood from the heart to the brain. These blood vessels travel close to the nasal passage, allowing cooling of up to 5°F of the blood before it is pumped to the brain, one of the most heat sensitive organs of the body.
Scimitar oryx were hunted for their horns, almost to extinction. Originally it began to decline as a result of major climatic changes that caused the Sahara Desert region to become dry. The northern population was mostly lost prior to the 20th century. The decline of the southern population accelerated as Europeans began to settle the area and hunting for meat, hides and horn-trophies increased. It is thought that World War II and the Civil War in Chad during the 1980s impacted heavily on the species through an increase in hunting for food.
Where once they occupied the whole Sahara Desert, they are now considered to be extinct in the wild, with no confirmed sightings in the wild for over 15 years. Although there have been unconfirmed sightings in Chad and Niger, these reports remain unsubstantiated, despite extensive surveys that were carried out throughout Chad and Niger in 2001-2004 in an effort to detect Sahelo-Sahara Desert antelopes.
A global captive breeding programme was initiated in the 1960s. In 1996, there were at least 1,250 captive animals held in zoos and parks around the world with a further 2,145 on ranches in Texas (for canned hunting). In 2005, at least 1,550 captives were managed as part of breeding programmes and it is believed that more than 4,000 are held in private collections in the United Arab Emirates. As part of the reintroduction plans, there are fenced in herds in three reserves in Tunisia, one reserve in Morocco and two reserves in Senegal.
On a side note, in Texas, Any asshole with $3500 can plan a four-day stay at a canned hunting ranch, where they provide lodging and a guide, and said Asshole can gun down the defenseless herbivore. These people vote Republican, hate taxes and are staunchly against anything resembling an open-border immigration policy. But they’ll happily shell out thousands of dollars to have someone who works in an enclosed facility lead them to this gorgeous, endangered/extinct NON-NATIVE creature and discharge a bullet or two to violently ends its life. Yeah, that’s consistent. Please consider – if you live in the U.S. – signing the petition linked below, aimed at making the Texas State Legislature take a look at this obscene and cruel practice. It’s approaching 10,000 of 15,000 required signatures. Thank you!
The East African Oryx resembles the closely related Gemsbok, but the latter has an entirely black tail, a black patch at the base of the tail, and more black to the legs and lower flanks. It inhabits eastern Africa, and the closely related Gemsbok inhabits southern Africa. Neither is threatened, though the former is considered Near Threatened by the IUCN. The Gemsbok is monotypic, and the East African Oryx has two subspecies; East African Oryx “proper” and the Fringe-eared Oryx. In the past, both of these were considered subspecies of the Gemsbok.
Between 1969 and 1977, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish intentionally released 93 gemsbok into its state’s White Sands Missile Range, and that population is now estimated between 3,000 and 6,000 animals. Within the state of New Mexico, oryxes are classified as “big game” and can be harvested with the proper license (Fuck You, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries), however the quality of the hunt may be affected by military regulation of the missile range.
East African oryx live in semi-desert and steppes where they eat grass, leaves, fruit andbuds. East African oryx are able to store water by raising their body temperature (so as to avoid perspiration). They gather in herds of five to forty animals often with females moving at the front and large male guarding from the rear. Some older males are solitary. Radio tracking studies show that solitary males are often accompanied for brief periods by breeding condition females, so it is probable they are executing a strategy to maximise their chances of reproduction.
So, how was that for a departure? Do you like the Oryx? Think they’re gorgeous? Wish for hunting accidents for jackasses trying to kill them with heavy artillery? Or am I the jackass & stick to writing about the Cenobites? I’m going home tonight. I wonder if they’ll be there waiting for me…
Closing image – majestic…positively.