A New Beginning For The Graceful Arabian Oryx – UAE

An endangered species, the Arabian Oryx was largely extinct in the wild by the early 1970s; reintroduction programs have since been introduced. The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s (EAD) plan to reintroduce the graceful Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) back……..


UAE (1998) 500 Dirhams (front) – The Arabian Oryx (one of three or four large antelope species of the genus Oryx)

into its natural habitats, after 40 years of extinction, is now well underway. Over the next four years, 100 captive-born Arabian oryx individuals will be released during the cooler months into suitable sites in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The sites cover a total of 10,000 sq. km and the Agency has already submitted a proposal to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council to declare this area a protected area. Meanwhile, following each release, monitoring of the animals will continue and the Agency’s Desert Rangers will patrol the area.


EAD selected the release sites very cautiously based on several criteria. More than 30 shelters and feeding stations have been temporarily installed to provide the oryx with shade and water. This is also done to support the oryxes in their learning process of surviving in the wild. These shelters and feeding stations will be gradually removed as the oryx learns to depend on its natural environment for survival, as it did years ago in the UAE.

According to EAD, the Al Ain Zoo has been a strategic partner throughout the project. The Zoo helped in selecting the release areas, building the fences, transportation of the animals and even donating some oryxs from the zoo. The Zoo also helped to prepare the oryxs for release, in terms of medical check ups and necessary vaccinations.

Historically, the Arabian oryx roamed in the Nafud and the Empty Quarter (Al Rub’ Al Khali). The northern Nafud population ranged over the entire northern shield of the Arabian Peninsula including the western part of UAE, in the Manasir, Dhafra and Liwa areas, their range extending into the Rub al Khali. The Arabian oryx also had a range covering Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

In the early 1960s, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founder of the UAE, arranged, just in time, for the capture of two breeding pairs of the Arabian Oryx for the nucleus of a captive-breeding programme. Hunting and habitat destruction were the main reasons behind the oryx’s disappearance after it had once roamed the Arabian Peninsula.

Today, the UAE hosts the largest group of Arabian oryx in the world with approximately 4,000 of these animals existing within the UAE. Around the world, it is estimated that there are around 6,000 Arabian oryxes.

The only other reintroduction project for the Arabian oryx that took place in the region was in neighboring Sultanate of Oman during the mid 1980’s. Further reintroduction projects into large reserves have also taken place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

More about the Arabian Oryx:-
• There are five species of Oryx: Scimitar-horned oryx, Arabian oryx, and Gemsbock, Addax and Bisa oryx. The Arabian oryx is the only oryx that exists in our region Arabian Peninsula) while the other four species exist in Africa.
Arabian oryx was officially declared as extinct in the wild in 1972 in its last location in Jiddat Al Harasis in Oman.
• Its long thin horns, which curve backwards slightly, may reach up to 90 cm.
• Its hooves are adapted naturally towards living in sandy areas.
• Expected to live 13-19 years.
• It feeds on grasses and young shoots of shrubs.
• They are able to derive their nutritional water needs from the morning dew on desert plants.
• Herds are led by a dominant female. Bachelor males usually lead a solitary life on the fringe of the main herd.

Source: Environment Agency Abu Dhabi – Reported 25/03/2007

Also read Wikipedia’s “Oryx” and “Arabian Oryx”