Status: Near threatened
Known as: Beisa Oryx, East African oryx
Estimated numbers left in wild: 65,000.
The beisa oryx is a species of large antelope, weighing up to 200 kilograms. This animal stands 110 to 120 centimetres at the shoulder. The main colour of the coat is a soft tan-grey, with a black stripe separating it from the white underbelly. A short mane runs from the back of the head down over the shoulders. The face has a light background with black stripes running down the centre and from the eyes to the corners of the mouth. A black stripe also extends from under the chin nearly to the base of the ears. Both male and female beisa oryx have straight, black, ridged horns that can measure up to 120 centimetres in length.
Beisa oryx form small herds of up to 40 animals; a mixed population of males, females and calves. The herd is fronted by the females, while several males follow to provide protection from stalking predators. These antelope can produce their young all year, but the females seem to synchronize their reproductive cycles so that most of the young are born within a narrow time-frame. Calves tend to remain in concealed locations for 2 to 6 weeks and then join the rest of the herd. Older bulls tend to live solitary lives, but females will sometimes join them when they are receptive and ready to breed.
The environment the beisa oryx lives in is hot and dry – they live in scrub-land, grassland, and both semi-arid and arid regions. If water is not readily available during the hot dry season, the oryx can cause a rise in body temperature to 46.5 degrees centigrade. This will match the temperature of the air and the oryx will not sweat and lose bodily fluid. However, should the ambient temperature rise above that, the oryx will begin to sweat. Grasses, leaves, and wild fruit form the main part of the oryx’s diet. When no water is available, not only will the beisa oryx control its body temperature to cope, but will also dig up roots and tubers for the moisture they contain.
Location: The beisa oryx is found on the eastern side of Africa in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. This antelope is thought to now be extinct in Uganda and Eritrea. The social upheavals in Uganda contributed to the extinction of the beisa oryx, as it was machine gunned from jeeps for sport.
Threats: Expanding agriculture, especially establishing grazing for domestic animals, has helped to restrict the range of the beisa oryx. Poaching continues to be a major problem both in protected areas and outside. Beisa oryx are killed both for their meat and for hides. They also have predation pressures from leopards, hunting dogs, lions and hyenas. The numbers of beisa oryx are declining.
Conservation efforts: A relatively small proportion of beisa oryx live in protected areas. There are few protected areas in the beisa’s range, and more needs to be done to halt and reverse the population decline. There are however captive breeding programs in place in both Europe and North America.
Beisa Oryx Videos
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