Monday, November 22, 2010

Arabian Oryx

A guest post by Ken.

During a recent bout of 'dune-bashing' in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, I came upon a herd of Arabian Oryxes (Oryx leucoryx). Our guide, a man from Burundi (where they have all the usual African wildlife except for elephants he informed me), who had been giving the safari for ten years was quick to spot them. He said this was a rare sight. The Dubai desert plains can reach temperatures of up to high 40's. However, by the time I was there in November it was down to low 30's. It had also just rained heavily, another unusual sight in the Emirate of Dubai in the U.A.E. This maybe why we were graced with a glimpse. I quickly grabbed my sister's camera to take a few pictures.
Dune Bashing
O. leucoryx are the most easterly-ranging oryxes and are native to Arabia and Iraq. They usually live in deserts, arid plains and rocky hill-sides. Both sexes have straight horns with the female's horns usually being longer and more slender. The mane extends from the shoulders and they possess a slightly tufted tail. The head and body are pale with definite markings of black or brown. They roam in herds of two to a dozen and are always alert and vigilant. If injured or confronted by their natural predators they attack with lowered heads with the horns pointed dangerously forward. They eat primarily grasses and shrubs using streams and waterholes as a source of water. However they can obtain water from desert fruit or succulent bulbs (1).
A herd of wild Arabian oryxes (Oryx leucoryx)
The species was eradicated entirely from the Arabian Peninsula by 1972 due to over-hunting and poaching. Prior to the extirpation, however, several captive breeding programs were started with the intention to reestablish them in their native habitats. Ismail et al. show that the frequency of reproductive activity was significantly related to daytime, temperature and radiation with significant reduction during a drought period. Also extreme climatic events, suitability of habitat aswell as carry capacity must be taken into account when managing introduced populations of desert ungulates in fenced protected areas (2).
Check out my white socks!!!
And then they were gone. Although we slowed down so as not to frighten them too much, we eventually went our separate ways. And for now, at least, we can be certain that the Arabian Oryx is alive and well.

  1. Biological Conservation, Volume 1, Issue 2, January 1969, Page 129
  2. K. Ismail, K. Kamal, M. Plath, T. Wronski, Effects of an exceptional drought on daily activity patterns, reproductive behaviour, and reproductive success of reintroduced Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx), Journal of Arid Environments, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 29 October 2010

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