Hunting in the past for its horns and flesh
The last Arabian oryx in the wild was hunted by unlawful hunters in 1972. Fortunately, there was an attempt to establish breeding groups in the 1950’s, and in 1962, a few individuals were transferred to a zoo in Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States. The climate there is very similar to their natural habitat. Today, there is a population in captivity which numbers over 6,000 individuals. A process of releasing to the wild has begun in Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Jordan, under supervision. The current number of individuals in the wild is estimated to be roughly 1,000. The oryx is a symbol of Qatar Airways and served as the official mascot of the Asian Games of 2006, which took place in Qatar.
The oryx has adapted well to life in extreme desert conditions. It can survive for weeks without drinking water and is active mainly at night. It can walk for long periods of time and vast distances in search of food. At times, it digs trenches with the aid of its horns and legs, to be used for resting places which are shaded and cooler than the sizzling environment. It is extremely difficult to find an oryx in the field since it migrates throughout its habitat. Although rain is rare in the desert, the oryx can distinguish rain from afar and can find for itself grasslands. There are zoologists who believe that the oryx has internal radar which helps them observe changes in weather. Since the oryx lives in difficult desert weather conditions, it has developed several ways to deal with the heat and the lack of water. Its fur is used as a cooling system. The fur’s glaring white color reflects most of the heat that comes from the sun. The oryx can live without water and can refrain from drinking for years. They provide for their need for fluids by licking dew collected early in the morning from the desert vegetation. Its wide variety of food sources includes desert vegetation.
Photo: Shai Ben Ami