|A male gemsbok (Oryx gazella) at Etosha National Park|
de Blainville, 1816
Oryx is a genus consisting of four large antelope species called oryxes. Their pelage is pale with contrasting dark markings in the face and on the legs, and their long horns are almost straight. The exception is the scimitar oryx, which lacks dark markings on the legs, only has faint dark markings on the head, has an ochre neck, and has horns that are clearly decurved.
The Arabian oryx was only saved from extinction through a captive-breeding program and reintroduction to the wild. The scimitar oryx, which is now listed as extinct in the wild, also relies on a captive-breeding program for its survival.
The term "oryx" comes from the Greek word ὄρυξ, óryx, for a type of antelope. The Greek plural form is óryges, although "oryxes" has been established in English. Herodotus mentions a type of gazelle in Libya called ὄρυς, orus, probably related to the verb ὀρύσσω, orussō, or ὀρύττω, oruttō, meaning "to dig". White oryxes are known to dig holes in the sand.
The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx, Arabic: المها), became extinct in the wild in 1972 in the Arabian Peninsula. It was reintroduced in 1982 in Oman, but poaching has reduced its numbers there. One of the largest populations of Arabian oryxes exists on Sir Bani Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates. Additional populations have been reintroduced in Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. As of 2011, the total wild population is over 1,000, and 6,000–7,000 are being held in captivity. In 2011, the IUCN downgraded its threat category from extinct in the wild to vulnerable, the first species to have changed back in this way.
The scimitar oryx, also called the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), of North Africa, is now listed as possibly extinct in the wild. Unconfirmed surviving populations have been reported in central Niger and Chad, and a semiwild population currently inhabiting a fenced nature reserve in Tunisia is being expanded for reintroduction to the wild in that country. Several thousand are held in captivity around the world.
East African oryx and gemsbok
The East African oryx (Oryx beisa) inhabits eastern Africa and the closely related gemsbok (Oryx gazella) inhabits southern Africa. The gemsbok is monotypic and the East African oryx has two subspecies; the common beisa oryx (O. b. beisa) and the fringe-eared oryx (O. b. callotis). In the past, both were considered subspecies of the gemsbok. The East African oryx is an endangered species, whereas the gemsbok is not.
Gemsbok were introduced in New Mexico by the Department of Game and Fish in the late 1960s and early 1970s as an experiment in offering a unique hunting opportunity to New Mexico residents. Between 1969 and 1973, 93 oryx were released onto White Sands Missile Range. White Sands Missile Range, located between the cities of Albuquerque, NM and El Paso, TX, is a 3,200 square mile US Army facility which also hosts White Sands National Park. The first atomic bomb was test detonated at Trinity Site near the northern boundary of the range. The gemsbok released onto the range quickly began to reproduce. Researchers believed that the population would never grow beyond 500 to 600 and would remain within the Tularosa Basin. However, the animals proved to be extremely opportunistic, and quickly spread into the San Andres Mountains to the north and west of Tularosa Basin. At one time, numbers of Oryx in New Mexico were estimated to be around 6,000 (original release numbers were less than 100). Today, numbers have been held around the 2,000 mark through managed hunting efforts. The success of the oryx in New Mexico is due in part to the abundance of food. In Africa, they eat grasses, forbs, and melons. Here, they feed on desert grasses, yucca, buffalo gourds, and mesquite bean pods. They are especially adapted to desert life and can go a long time without drinking water. This area also lacks a way to control the population. Lions and other natural predators cull the population in Africa, with only 10% of calves reaching one year of age. In New Mexico, predators like coyotes and mountain lions are not effective at controlling numbers, allowing the oryx to reproduce without restriction.    
Oryx dammah is the only oryx with clearly curved horns, an ochre neck, and no dark markings on the legs.
Oryx beisa resembles the closely related O. gazella, but the latter has an entirely black tail and more black to the legs and lower flanks.
- Family Bovidae
All oryx species prefer near-desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods. They live in herds of up to 600 animals. Newborn calves are able to run with the herd immediately after birth. Both males and females possess permanent horns. The horns are narrow and straight except in the scimitar oryx, where they curve backwards like a scimitar. The horns can be lethal: oryxes has been known to kill lions with them, and they are thus sometimes called sabre antelopes (not to be confused with the sable antelope). The horns also make the animals a prized game trophy, which has led to the near-extinction of the two northern species.
As an introduced species
Between 1969 and 1977, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in the US intentionally released 95 gemsbok into its state's White Sands Missile Range and that population is now estimated between 3,000 and 6,000 animals. Within the state of New Mexico, oryxes are classified as "big game" and can be hunted.
Oryxes in popular culture
The main boss of the MMO game Realm of the Mad God is Oryx the Mad God, named after the creator of the original sprite sheets, Oryx. His four direct subordinates also bear the names of four South African species of oryx.
In the video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, a playable defending operator nicknamed Oryx was introduced in Year 5 Season 1. His ability is called "Remah Dash," where he can charge to break holes in walls and knock down enemies.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2017). "Oryx leucoryx". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T15569A50191626. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T15569A50191626.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as Vulnerable.
- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2016). "Oryx dammah". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T15568A50191470. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T15568A50191470.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as extinct in the wild.
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