Arabian Oryx

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Arabian Oryx

© Dick George, Phoenix Zoo


The endangered Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is believed to have started the legend of the unicorn because when the animal is seen in profile, it appears to have only a single horn!  Oryx are unique in that although they can live for weeks without water, they have an uncanny ability to detect water from miles away.

The greatest threats affecting the Arabian oryx are human-related and include habitat loss and their being hunted for the meat, hides and horns their bodies provide.  Starting in 1963, with only seven animals, AZA-accredited zoos initiated a breeding program, although in 1972, the Arabian oryx was declared extinct in the wild.  

The AZA Antelope and Giraffe Taxon Advisory Group and Arabian Oryx Species Survival Plan® Program currently manage over 100 Arabian oryx at 16 AZA-accredited zoos.  Due to the cooperative efforts of zoo and wildlife conservationists, Arabian oryx are now repopulating part of their original range in Saudi Arabia and Oman.  There are currently more than 1,450 Arabian oryx worldwide.

Arabian Oryx Facts

Status Endangered
Size Males and females are 3-5 feet tall at the shoulder, 4.5-7.5 feet long and weigh 220-460 pounds.
Appearance Oryx are white with black markings on the face and legs and have 2 long, straight horns.
Habitat They are generally found on gravel plains, forested savannas, and on the fringes of the desert.  Oryx travel in herds of 7 to 10 animals.
Diet Oryx primarily eat grasses, roots, and fruits. 
Breeding Females breed between 2 and 4 years old and have a gestation period of 240 days.

What are AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums Doing for Arabian Oryx?