The Arabian Oryx Conservation Program
Photograph: Yaara Forest Tamari
Photograph: Shai Ben-Ami
The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) was once found throughout most of the Arabian Peninsula, and its habitat extended northwards to the deserts of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and the Sinai Peninsula. This remarkable antelope was hunted almost to extinction and the last individual caught in the wild was trapped by illegal hunters in 1972. In the 1950’s attempts were already being made to establish breeding nuclei, and in 1962 several specimens were sent to the Phoenix Zoo in the American state of Arizona, where the climate is very similar to that of its natural habitat. Today the population in captivity numbers over 7,000, and a well-supervised process of release into the wild is already underway in Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Israel. These reintroduction programs have resulted in a wild population of over 1,000 specimens. In 2011, the IUCN Red List upgraded the conservation status of the species from "Endangered" to "Vulnerable".
The Biblical Zoo houses a breeding nucleus at the Bible Land Wildlife Preserve which is a source of individuals released into the wild by the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve and the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA).