Daily Express

Sahara Oryx comes back from extinction

- By James Gamble

AN African antelope is bounding back from extinction in the wild thanks to a breeding programme led by British experts.

The scimitar-horned oryx was once widespread across North Africa, but its population plummeted after it was hunted for its horns and meat.

But now the animal, also known as the Sahara oryx, is the first species from the Zoological Society of London’s Extinct in theWild scheme to be downlisted to endangered.

Calves

The oryx is also boosting the ecosystem by maintainin­g grasslands and keeping back desertific­ation in its native Chad.

The creature, which has long horns that curve backwards like a scimitar sword, was declared extinct in the wild in 2000.

However, 510 scimitar-horned calves have now been born in Chad thanks to the breeding scheme by ZSL and the Environmen­t Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD).

In February, ZSL scientists produced a study arguing that conservati­on zoos potentiall­y had the power to reverse the extinction of some animals. That research was the first to comprehens­ively evaluate 95 Extinct in the Wild animals and plants which, since 1950, have survived only due to constant human care.

Meanwhile, the EAD co-ordinated world conservati­on groups to breed and reintroduc­e the oryx into the wild.

Animals from leading conservati­on zoos, including Whipsnade in Bedfordshi­re, contribute­d to the founding herd.The oryxes are now thriving in Chad’s Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve.

Dr Andrew Terry of ZSL, who co-authored the study, said the success of the oryx could save other endangered animals.

He said: “At a time when biodiversi­ty is being lost at unpreceden­ted rates, the return of the scimitar-horned oryx can give us hope for other species whose fate is – quite literally – in our hands.

Support

“To have the fate of the flagship species for the initiative dramatical­ly reversed proves the potential for the other species surviving only in zoos and reinforces the need for urgent support from funders and policy makers.”

ZSL’s senior conservati­on biologist, Tim Wacher, said: “All Saharan antelope species are severely threatened, but this project is proof that with the right will and resources we can secure a future for them all.”

 ?? ?? Born again ...an oryx pair at Whipsnade Zoo
Born again ...an oryx pair at Whipsnade Zoo

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