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Interesting facts about the Arabian oryx

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We found 21 interesting facts about the Arabian oryx

 Snow-white beauty, soul of the desert, hero of the legend of the unicorn.

Beautiful white antelopes with a noble head and beautiful eyes and long, slightly curved horns. Perfectly adapted to life in the desert at high temperatures with little water, they inhabited areas of Western Asia in large numbers. Due to intensive hunting, they almost became extinct. Preserved almost miraculously thanks to conservative selection with a few surviving specimens.


The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is the smallest species of oryx.

Oryx is a mammal from the antelope subfamily (Antilopinae) of the bovid family (Bovidae). It includes species found in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Currently, in addition to the Arabian oryx, there are the following species: striped oryx, fringed-eared oryx, southern oryx, sable oryx and oryx gallarum.


The Arabian oryx was once considered a subspecies of the oryx, Oryx gasella.


The Arabian oryx was already known to the ancient Egyptians.

Images of oryxes were found in Saqqara, on the facade of the chapel of the tomb of an official of the royal office from the reign of one of the first pharaohs of the XNUMXth dynasty, located next to the oldest pyramid in the world. The head of the god Set (younger brother of Osiris) was depicted as a combination of an oryx, a donkey and a jackal.


The Arabian oryx is the national animal of Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

There are suggestions that this animal could be the prototype of the ancient legend of the unicorn. The oryx has a uniform white coat and, when viewed in profile and from a distance, can be mistaken for a single-horned creature - its two horns appear to be one. According to another concept, if he loses one of his horns for any reason, that horn will never grow back. In the ancient engraving "Peregrinatio in terram Sanctam", dating from 1486, describing the pilgrimage through Egypt and Mount Sinai to Jerusalem, there are woodcuts depicting animals encountered during the journey - crocodiles, camels and a unicorn - most likely an oryx. 


The Arabian oryx is the most recognizable symbol of wildlife in the Middle East.

This is an animal whose height reaches 80–100 cm (at the withers), and its weight is 70 kg. He has a massive body, a thick neck and thin, high legs. Its color is milky white, almost luminous, with dark spots on the head and legs and a dark delicate stripe on the side of the body. Impressive, slightly curved black horns up to 60 cm long grow from the skull. In the middle of its neck, at the back of its head, grows a short, straight mane. The oryx's tail is long and bushy, reminiscent of a horse's, except that the hair grows from the middle of the tail. The beautiful eyes of the oryx have been a source of inspiration for many poets in the Arab world.


Oryx inhabit various very dry desert areas.

Their feeding areas are rocky deserts and rocky sandy areas, dunes and poor steppes. They lead a daily lifestyle, usually in a herd of up to a dozen individuals. 


The oryx's only natural predator is the wolf.

In the fight against wolves, oryxes are favored by the difficult conditions in which oryxes live.


Like all antelopes, oryxes are herbivores.

They feed mainly on grass, as well as fruits, tubers, shoots, buds of other plants, roots and herbs.


Oryx are able to survive in very difficult conditions. 

They tolerate long droughts, very high temperatures and strong winds. They can survive droughts lasting up to 6 months (for comparison, a camel can live without water for about 2 weeks). They are able to satisfy their needs by licking dew from the fur of the animals of their herd. 


In extreme heat, oryxes' body temperature can reach 46,5 degrees C, and on cold nights it can drop to 36 degrees C.

When temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius, the oryx does not sweat or lose moisture to cool itself. His body temperature rises above 45 degrees C, and his brain is cooled by blood that passes through a network of blood vessels (a strange network), creating a system similar to a car radiator. In addition, oryx can control kidney function.


The Arabian Oryx has the ability to detect and follow rain.

Oryx have an amazing ability to detect moisture. When they discover that there is a body of water nearby, they can walk several kilometers to it. When they believe that an area is about to receive rainfall, they move to that location. They are most active in the morning and hide in the shade during the day.


Oryx herds are mixed, consisting of 12 to 18 animals, but in fertile valleys with trees and significant vegetation cover they can number up to 60 animals.

In each herd there is one dominant male, in addition to him there are other, immature males and females. Inside the herd, oryxes behave peacefully, but this does not apply to the mating season, which lasts from May to December. Then fights often occur for the sake of the female. Fights take place using horns - they rarely end in bloodshed. The pregnancy of females lasts 240 days, one body is born and the mother feeds it for 2,5 months. Oryx become sexually mature at the age of 2,5 – 3,5 years. They live more than 20 years.


Historically, the Arabian oryx was found primarily in the Middle East, and until the early XNUMXth century large herds of oryx were found in Palestine, the Sinai, Iraq and Transjordan.

For centuries, oryxes have been part of the environment that allowed indigenous peoples to survive. They had limited use - only occasionally they were hunted by the Bedouins - thanks to which their population remained constant.


In the early 60s, oryx numbers dropped to between 100 and 120 individuals, and the Arabian oryx was last seen in the wild in 1972.

Oryx were hunted intensively for their meat and as trophies. In the 30s, oryx hunting using motorized vehicles was a popular pastime for wealthy Arab princes. The construction of new roads allowed hunters to reach previously inaccessible places, and hunting weapons became more advanced - right from a car, one hunter could shoot several oryxes at the same time. The extinction of the species was also contributed to by overgrazing of oryxes by farm animals in their natural habitat and by capturing them for private collections. This led to the fact that in 1930 there were no more oryxes in the territory where Israel is now located.


Only a few Arabian oryxes remained, which were kept in zoos or were the private property of Arab sheikhs.

In 1962, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Conservation Fund and other organizations proposed a plan to save the oryx. The plan was called "Oryx". The Los Angeles and Phoenix Zoos have created so-called "World Herds" and begun a breeding program. The breeding was successful, and the oryxes were sent to other zoos, where they were also bred. This has led to the emergence of new breeding groups on the Arabian Peninsula.


 The first oryxes were released into the wild in Oman in 1982. In 1994, the population peaked at 450 individuals.

The Arabian oryx has been restored in Oman, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain. Currently, there are breeding groups of these oryxes in Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel. The total population of the species has already exceeded 2000 individuals and the threat of extinction of the Arabian oryx as a species no longer exists. In addition, there are approximately 6000 individuals in captivity.


The Arabian oryx is the first species to be moved from extinct in the wild to critically endangered by the world's endangered species body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


All living Arabian oryxes are descended from just 1970 animals.


Unlike other species of oryx, Arabian oryx are characterized by obvious aggressiveness of adult males towards humans. 

At the Riyadh Zoo, three adult males are kept indoors and only go outside during mating season. It has been noticed that when garden workers arrive, for example, to clean the enclosure or put away food, the male oryx immediately heads to this place with clearly aggressive intentions. This behavior of oryxes makes it difficult to keep large numbers of them in limited areas of the zoo, and keeping males indoors for most of the year, without direct access to sunlight, does not benefit these animals. For these reasons, research centers generally do not keep adult males or artificially inseminate females. At the same time, it has been noted that in large areas, males, sticking to the herd, usually do not attack people.


In 1982, Oman agreed to introduce some of the hatched oryxes to the Central Province and made efforts to establish a reserve and include it on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List is subject to certain obligations of the country submitting the application. UNESCO reserves the right to remove a site from the list if these obligations have not been met or the site has lost its value. This right was first used in 2007 in the case of the Arabian Oryx Reserve in connection with the decision of the Omani authorities to reduce the area of ​​the reserve by 90 percent. Moreover, the population of Arabian oryx in the area declined from 450 to 65 individuals, indicating a lack of proper management of the area by local authorities.


Some people believe that oryx horn has magical or healing powers and is therefore used in various treatments.

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