Sunday, March 21, 2010
Arabian Oryx, EN (endangered)
mixed media leather jointed sculpture
photograph taken by Bruce Mathews
Around 1800 the habitat of these white antelope was the desert plains of the entire Arabian Peninsula. Nomadic herds composed of two to fifteen individuals followed the rare rains in search of grasses, leaves, and buds. During the heat of the day, the oryx would rest in the shade offered by trees and bushes. Their white coats helped also to reflect the desert's sweltering heat. The lifespan of an oryx could be as long as twenty years. Each birthing after a gestation period of eight to nine months produced a single calf. The jackal, a native predator, preyed on young calves. Humans hunted the adult oryx for their meat and hides.
World War II birthed new powerful human guided predators. The automatic rifle and the Jeep. Decimation escalated in the decades after this war until it is thought that the last wild oryx was killed in 1972. The main cause of extinction of the Arabian Oryx in the wild was overhunting. Bedouins killed them for their meat and hides. Sport hunters killed them as a trophy.
Thankfully, captive breeding had begun in the 1950s on the Peninsula. In 1962, several individuals were sent to the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona where the breeding program flourished. Oryx were reintroduced into the wild in Oman in 1982. In the following years others found the desert in Bahrain, Israel, and Saudi Arabia to be their new homes. The reintroduction population in the wild numbered 886 in 2003.
Sadly, poaching by humans has once again become a serious threat to the reintroduced oryx. Also the escalating temperatures in the desert are stressing these creatures.