Arabian oryx returns to the wild in Saudi Arabia

Authorities in the kingdom set to release 1,200 animals into their natural habitat

epaselect epa07239403 Oryx walk in Rub Al-Khali desert, Saudi Arabia, 17 December 2018 (issued 19 December 2018). Oryx is a genus consisting of four large antelope species called oryxes. Three of them are native to arid parts of Africa, with the fourth being native to the Arabian Peninsula.Their fur is pale with contrasting dark markings in the face and on the legs with their long horns being almost straight.  EPA/VALDRIN XHEMAJ
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After decades spent close to extinction, the Arabian oryx has been successfully returned to the wild in Saudi Arabia.

Hunting and capture has led to a precarious future for the animal, which is native to the Arabian peninsula.

Saudi conservationists have worked hard to preserve oryx numbers in captivity with a view to releasing them into the wild.

Now 1,200 of the animals are to be returned to their natural habitat, Arab News cited Ahmed Al Bouq, the supervisor of the kingdom’s National Centre for Wildlife Development, as saying.

About 7,000 currently in captivity are set to be returned to three regions in the kingdom in future campaigns.

Mr Al Bouq said the Arabian oryx, one of four species of oryx in the world, was part of the region’s identity.

“In the past years, the National Centre for Wildlife Development succeeded in the relocation programmes they launched, thanks to the Saudi experts and their partners in the region,” he said.

“That resulted in reducing the extinction levels.”

Dubai, Jan 18th, 2012 -- An Arabian oryx wanders the desert dunes. Biosphere Expeditions offers an environmental volunteer project  at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve where anyone can have a chance to work on conservation and research projects. Photo by: Sarah Dea/ The National

Due to thousands of years living in deserts, the Arabian oryx has adapted to cope with harsh, dry environments, with its white coat reflecting heat and to help lower its body temperature.

It can change its body temperature from 36°C to 44°C, helping it adapt to the hot and cold temperatures of the desert.

Dark marks on its face and legs that make it appear larger than other desert predators, such as wolves, to help deter attacks.

Its almost straight, sharp horns mean it can protect itself against hunting dogs, Mr Al Bouq told Arab News.

In 2013, the animal’s classification was changed to vulnerable, he said.

“We currently seek to revert it to 'least concern' in order to make the species widespread, and such efforts are rare at the international level,” he said.

Updated: November 08, 2021, 11:16 AM