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Scimitar-​horned oryx to be rein­tro­duced in the wild in Chad

pub­lished 16 April 2016 | mod­i­fied 16 April 2016

Scimitar horned oryx release ChadA Giant Leap for Scimitar-​Horned Oryx Conservation

For the first time, scimitar-​horned oryx are going to be rein­tro­duced to the wild in Chad. Extinct in the wild since the mid-​1980s, the species’ return is the result of the Envi­ron­ment Agency-​Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the gov­ern­ment of Chad’s Scimitar-​horned Oryx Rein­tro­duc­tion Pro­gramme. Researchers from the Smith­son­ian Con­ser­va­tion Biol­ogy Insti­tute (SCBI) will be work­ing as part of the pro­gramme to mon­i­tor the herd remotely after the rein­tro­duc­tion. A team of rangers trained by EAD and the Sahara Con­ser­va­tion Fund (SCF) will mon­i­tor the herd on the ground in Chad.

This ambi­tious and his­toric recov­ery effort was made pos­si­ble by the estab­lish­ment of a ‘world herd’ of scimitar-​horned oryx in Abu Dhabi and a decades-​long his­tory of excel­lence in the care and man­age­ment of this species in human care around the world
Steve Mon­fort, John & Adri­enne Mars direc­tor of SCBI »

Mont­fort, who was in Chad when the oryx arrived, added, “Restor­ing oryx to the wild will have a huge and pos­i­tive impact on the con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment of the entire Sahe­lian grass­lands ecosys­tem. We are thrilled to play a role in this incred­i­ble part­ner­ship designed to restore the species to its right­ful place in the wild.”

Twenty-​five scimitar-​horned oryx arrived in Chad by aero­plane from Abu Dhabi March 16 and were taken to the Ouadi Rimé-​Ouadi Achim Game Reserve. It was the first time in 30 years any oryx had been in the coun­try. The oryx will ini­tially be held in a large fenced area to accli­ma­tise them to their new home at the Reserve. They will be fully released this sum­mer, when the rainy sea­son makes con­di­tions in their native desert habi­tat more favourable.

Scimitar-​horned oryx mak­ing a come­back:

(Source: National Geo­graphic YouTube channel)

Before the full release of the herd, each oryx will be fit­ted with a GPS-​satellite col­lar and mon­i­tored by sci­en­tists at SCBI and the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don. The data they col­lect will be used to track and help pro­tect the ani­mals, gather behav­ioural data on the species and study their ecol­ogy. The data will help future rein­tro­duc­tion efforts.

The col­lars were tested on scimitar-​horned oryx herds liv­ing at SCBI in Front Royal, Va., and at Fos­sil Rim Wildlife Cen­ter in Texas in sep­a­rate one-​month tri­als. The tri­als demon­strated that the oryx were not neg­a­tively affected by wear­ing the col­lars. Before the full release this sum­mer, SCBI sci­en­tists will travel to Chad to fit the oryx with col­lars and con­duct final tests of the satel­lite data trans­mis­sion and analy­sis pro­to­cols before the ani­mals are released.

Scimitar horned oryx in ChadScimitar-​horned oryx at the Ouadi Rimé-​Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad.
Image credit: Envi­ron­men­tal Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD)

SCF and EAD have also trained a team of local wildlife experts and rangers to mon­i­tor the oryx after they are rein­tro­duced. To help with their con­tin­ued pro­tec­tion, the team will organ­ise community-​outreach pro­grammes about the oryx. The rein­tro­duc­tion pro­gramme is work­ing to build a self-​sustaining pop­u­la­tion of 500 wild oryx over the next five years. EAD is devel­op­ing a genet­i­cally diverse “world herd” of oryx, includ­ing ani­mals orig­i­nally from the United States, Europe and United Arab Emi­rates. Those ani­mals will be part of future reintroductions.

Con­ser­va­tion sta­tus and threats
The scimitar-​horned oryx (Oryx dammah), a desert ante­lope, was declared Extinct in the Wild by the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature in 2000. Unreg­u­lated hunt­ing was the pri­mary cause of the scimitar-​horned oryx’s extinc­tion in the wild. Today, how­ever, the threat from largely unreg­u­lated pas­toral devel­op­ment and habi­tat loss are major con­cerns. The world’s largest sin­gle pop­u­la­tion of scimitar-​horned oryx liv­ing in human care — num­ber­ing approx­i­mately 3,000 indi­vid­u­als — is in the United Arab Emirates.

(Source: Smith­son­ian news release, 13.04.2016)

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