Scimitar-horned oryx returns to Sahara

After nearly a 20-year absence, an iconic ruminant is reintroduced to its desert home. 

Oryx released into Sahara
Monumental moment: scimitar-horned oryx are released into holding enclosure. © ZSL


Fourteen scimitar-horned oryx, currently classified as Extinct in the Wild, have been successfully released to a remote region of Chad at the edge of the Sahara desert.  

“It’s been a privilege to play a part in returning this iconic species to its original homeland,” said Tim Wacher, a  Zoological Society of London (ZSL) conservationist.

“Releasing these animals back into their native arid grassland landscape after two decades of absence was an emotional moment for all involved.”

The captive-bred antelopes have joined a herd of 21 that were released in August 2016 and are now thriving in their new habitat.

One female from the first reintroduction has already given birth – the calf is the first scmitar-horned oryx to be born in the wild for more than 20 years. 

Once widespread across the southern Sahara, the scimitar-horned oryx was rapidly driven to extinction during a period of extended civil unrest in the 1980s and 1990s. 

A breeding programme was established in the United Arab Emirates alongside zoos around the world, including ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in the UK, to maintain a viable back-up population of these animals.

This project is a joint initiative involving the Government of Chad and Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD), with support from ZSL.

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here