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Common Beisa Oryx: History & Conservation Efforts

What is the Common Beisa Oryx?

The common beisa oryx, also called the Beisa oryx, is a subspecies of the ostrich found in central and east Africa.

This is an article about the common Beisa Oryx that has been one of many conservation efforts on behalf of this majestic animal.

This common Beisa Oryx is a subspecies of the ostrich that can be found in Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya and Somalia. These common Beisa Oryx are notably larger than their other subspecies.

In common with other oryx species they have black upper parts from their head to rump, with a white underside and long legs.

The common beisa oryx reach heights of up to 1.5 m (horns included) and weigh 130-150 kg. The common Beisa Oryx are noted for having shorter forelegs compared to other subspecies; this is an adaptation brought about by the need to run through the soft sand in their habitat.

The common Beisa Oryx can run at speeds up to 80 km/hr and have been recorded reaching speeds of 120 km/hr when sprinting towards perceived danger, a common trait among ruminant animals such as antelopes.

Beisa Oryx Behavior

Common beisa oryx are highly sociable creatures that form small groups of around three to five individuals that have a common territory. The common beisa oryx rarely stay together, they are quite territorial and adults will not tolerate other common Beisa Oryx on their patch. These common Beisa Oryx will fight if necessary to maintain their area.

Common beisa oryx are browsers, meaning that they feed on all sorts of plants. They can be very selective but common Beisa Oryx generally choose short and soft grasses, bushes, weeds and cactus. Although common beisa oryx are herbivores, common Beisa Oryx do supplement their diet with insects such as locusts and ants which they find by digging in the sand with one of their common Beisa Oryx’s powerful hooves.

Location

The beisa oryx is found in the eastern side of Africa, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania. Previously to have been extinct in Uganda and Eritrea because of social upheavals, it was machine-gunned from jeeps for sport.

Facts About the Beisa Oryx

The common beisa oryx are not the most common type of oryx, the scimitar-horned oryx is more common than the common beisa oryx.

Common beisa orxes walk in a zigzag fashion to avoid stepping on prickly plants. The common beisa oryx are capable of reaching speeds up to 120 kilometers per hour, that is about 75 miles per hour. They can also sprint at high speeds when they need to get away from danger.

There is concern for the common beisa oryx, some scientists have found that common Beisa Oryx may not make it past 2025 due to habitat loss and poaching for their horns.

Beisa Oryx Conservation Overview

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. This has led numbers to drop dramatically of beisa oryx over the last 30 years with estimates varying from 500 to 1000 animals left in the wild.

Common Beisa Oryx Today

The common beisa oryx is now common in zoos worldwide, especially in Europe which houses a common beisa oryx captive breeding program that was started in 1994. The common beisa oryx population in zoos is estimated to be around 30,000 common Beisa Oryx (as of 2005).

The IUCN now list the common beisa oryx as Vulnerable and Range State Parties have been implementing most appropriate management strategies being studied in common Beisa Oryx reintroduction and ecological studies such as common beisa oryx feeding ecology.

The common beisa oryx population in the wild is now considered to be increasing at a slow rate of 5-8% per annum, however, common Beisa Oryx are still under pressure from illegal poaching activities for their meat and hides.

The common beisa oryx is a species that has been reintroduced (with varying degrees of success) to the wild in several countries including Jordan, Israel, Syria and Eritrea (where it was previously extinct).

These common beisa oryx reintroduction programs have led to an increase in common Beisa Oryx population numbers from 600 common beisa oryx in the wild as of 1994 to an estimated 2000 common Beisa Oryx in the wild in 2007.

Conservation efforts

Few beisa oryx live in protected areas. The species has decreased in population due to a lack of conservation efforts. There are, however, captive breeding programs in place both overseas and domestically.

Conservation efforts have been made including, fencing off areas, setting up protected areas and encouraging tourism for common beisa oryx. This common Beisa Oryx subspecies has also benefited from CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] bans which prevent international trade of common beisa oryx parts.

Through the efforts of common beisa oryx preservationists common Beisa Oryx numbers have stabilized and common beisa oryx populations are now slowly growing again.

Organizations

Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Beisa Oryx? Then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is the Beisa Oryx Endangered?

The common beisa oryx was once common to southern Ethiopia, but increased urbanization and population growth led to ever-shrinking habitat. The common beisa oryx is now found only in small populations on the border of Kenya and Somalia.

Mares are often gunned down by locals who believe they have killed livestock, but more often kill them purely out of superstition (belief that killing these animals will bring prosperity).

It’s estimated that there are less than 1,000 Beisa Oryx remaining in the wild today due to habitat loss and poaching.

Fortunately for the common beisa oryx (most critically), there has been a steady decrease in poaching while conservation efforts have steadily increased over time as well.

Where Does the Beisa Oryx Live?

The common beisa oryx are endemic to eastern Africa, inhabiting remote desert habitats in nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.

  • Beisa oryx live in sparse desert habitats of the Eastern African Rift Valley that are characterized by low tree growth and a harsh climate.
  • Beisa oryx grow a shaggy coat of fur with long guard hairs that protect them from the harsh environment they live in such as sandstorms. They also have wide ears and deep nostrils to help cool their body temperature which helps deal with their inability to sweat efficiently for thermoregulation purposes
  • Due to their largely nocturnal lifestyle where conditions permit it is common for beisa oryxs to congregate during the heat of the day and disperse in the cooler evening hours.

What Does Beisa Oryx Look Like?

Beisa oryx have many common features shared with common goitered and common white oryx. These include: heavy fur, especially thick on the neck, ears, shoulders, lower back as well as the rump and thighs, a short tail and a mane surrounding the neck.

The common beisa oryx also has unique features that set them apart from common white oryx and common goitered oryxs such as their shaggier coat, which is denser than other Oryx species due to the harshness of the environment they inhabit, and their dark brown coat that lightens up to a beige color in the summer months.

Beisa oryxs have wide ears that help cool their body temperature, common among desert-dwelling mammals such as wild donkeys, camels, common giraffes and dorcas gazelles.

What Does Beisa Oryx Eat?

Beisa oryx are herbivores, consuming primarily grasses and clover in tropical areas of Kenya as well as the common jimson weed (“Datura stramonium”) which can be lethal to common giraffes.

What Threats Do Beisa Oryx Face?

The population of common beisa oryx has been in steep decline over the past couple of decades due to a number of common threats such as poaching, habitat loss, and common diseases.

  • Poaching is common among beisa oryx due to them being common game animals for big game hunters. They are also common prey for lions and hyenas which can lead to their population dwindling in even the commonest of populations.
  • The common beisa oryxs natural habitat, the Eastern African Desert, has been increasingly taken over by human settlements leading to a 70% decline in their range across Kenya since recording started 20 years ago.

Beisa oryx have become common targets for poachers due to their common features shared with common white oryx, common goitered oryx and common elands that make them common targets for big game hunters.

The common beisa oryx is also highly susceptible to a number of common diseases that affect their heart lining which can be fatal to the common animal.

What Is Being Done To Help Beisa Oryx?

Common Beisa oryx are a domesticated animal that is used as a common game in hunting and is also endangered. Efforts have been made by African Oryx Sanctuary and Savannah Fund to save the animals from extinction with programs such as the African Oryx Sanctuary.

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