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About The Reintroduction

The Chad Oryx Reintroduction Project is a joint initiative led by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi and the Chadian Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Eau, et de la Pêche. Project activities in Chad are implemented by the Sahara Conservation Fund, with technical support from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Zoological Society of London, and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Other invaluable partner organizations include Marwell Wildlife and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The reintroduction programme is the realization of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s legacy to conserve wildlife and protect terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the United Arab Emirates and across the world. The United Arab Emirates is strongly committed to wildlife conservation, and has been successful in the preservation and protection of a variety of endangered species, including Arabian oryx and houbara bustard. 

The Species

The scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) is a large African antelope adapted to the arid, seasonal grasslands around the Sahara Desert. Oryx are mostly white, with reddish brown masks and necks and a long, tufted tail. Their white coat reflects the hot desert sun, black skin helps to protect them from sunburn, and dense eyelashes shield their eyes against windblown sand. Broad hooves enable scimitar-horned oryx to walk easily on sand and other loose terrain. Both male and female oryx have long, sharp, ridged horns that arch over their back for several feet.
These desert antelope stand more than four feet tall (1.5 meters) at the shoulder, and can weigh up to 460 pounds (210 kilograms). There is little difference between adult males and females, though adult males are often larger.
Wild scimitar-horned oryx once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and roamed the vast Sahelian region of North Africa (an area that includes portions of Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan). 

Increased hunting pressure, partly driven by political conflict and growing access to automated weapons, led to the widespread decline of oryx in the 20th century. Habitat degradation and increasing competition with livestock also contributed to their decline. The last wild oryx were seen in in the late 1980s, and the species was officially classified as Extinct in the Wild in 2000. Several small, intensively managed herds of scimitar-horned oryx exist in small fenced reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal. 
About 8 to 8.5 months after mating, female oryx give birth to a single calf weighing 20-25 pounds (10 kilograms). Females often separate from the group when they give birth, and hide calves from predators until they are strong enough to keep up with adults.
Scimitar-horned oryx feed on a wide variety of grasses and forbs, and roots. They rarely drink surface water, and instead get most of the moisture they need from the plants they eat, wild melons, and occasionally Acacia seed pods.

Oryx are usually found in social groups, though these vary in size, with as few as two individuals traveling together. Group membership is not constant, and different oryx form different groups over time. Each group usually contains one dominant adult male, who chases stragglers and may confront other males.
The scimitar-horned oryx is well-adapted to its arid environment. Unlike humans, oryx can tolerate very high internal body temperatures. This means that oryx sweat very little and conserve water very efficiently. During the dry season, oryx survive without drinking water for as long as nine months. Oryx also change their activity by season, staying under shade during hot days and moving around during cool nights throughout the dry season.

The project



The Chad Oryx Reintroduction Project is working to establish a viable, free-living, and self-sufficient population of at least 1000 scimitar-horned oryx within their ancestral range. 

Since the oryx’s extinction in the wild, the international zoological community has protected and maintained the species’ genetic diversity. This large captive population may now act as the source for a large-scale reintroduction. Some of the last populations of scimitar-horned oryx were found in the Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve in central Chad. After more than 30 years, major factors in the species’ disappearance – such as unrestricted hunting – have decreased. Local stakeholders have expressed a vision for the restoration of “the scimitar-horned oryx moving through a regional mosaic of interconnected areas, in harmony with local people; restoring pride, cultural and natural heritage, economic and ecosystem values.” The project seeks to fulfill this vision, while meeting the needs of wildlife and local communities. 

Timeline

The site

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  • The last known large herds of oryx, and some of the latest sightings in the wild, occurred in Chad.
  • Chad contains the largest intact fragments of seasonal Sahelian grasslands, the preferred habitat of scimitar-horned oryx.
  • The Government of Chad is committed to enforcement, protection, and management that will support the restoration of the oryx and the rehabilitation of its habitat.

The Reserve

  • The Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve was created in 1969 to protect scimitar horned oryx, cheetah, addax, and ostrich.
  • At nearly 95,000km2 in size, the Reserve is one of the largest terrestrial protected areas in the world, and the second largest protected area in Africa.
  • The red area on the map shows the seasonal grasslands fringing the Sahara Desert; these are the preferred habitat of scimitar-horned oryx. Black triangles show sites where oryx currently live in small fenced reserves. 

Tracking reintroduced Oryx

Global Positions System (GPS) Collars.

Close monitoring at all stages of a reintroduction is a required and critical component of best practices in modern conservation biology.

Monitoring reintroduced animals is a critical best practices in modern conservation biology.

Wildlife biologists frequently use GPS tracking devices to monitor animals as they move across large, remote landscapes. GPS tracking is the best way to consistently locate animals in isolated areas, identify habitat preferences and home ranges, and trace the fate of every reintroduced animal.

We conducted extensive research to select appropriate GPS collar models, improve collar fit, and evaluate potential negative effects. Our research shows that oryx may experience minimal effects from collars that fade within hours to days of collar fitting.

All GPS collars used in this project carry a drop-off mechanism to ensure they are removed after a maximum of 3 years. We monitor all released oryx to assess potential problems and remove collars earlier, if necessary. We are also actively investigating alternate tracking technologies.





Follow the movements of scimitar-horned oryx as they move across the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in search of forage.
 
Here we show the movements of Blue 40, the dominant male in the first group of oryx reintroduced to the Reserve in August 2016. Blue 40’s collar recorded his position once an hour from the time of his release until the collar dropped off in May 2018





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