Arabian oryx calves born at Phoenix Zoo as species continues to rebound

Mar 6, 2023, 4:35 AM
(Phoenix Zoo photo)...
(Phoenix Zoo photo)
(Phoenix Zoo photo)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Zoo has been a longtime player in Arabian Oryx conservation, and two calves were born at the facility in mid-February.

One of the younglings is visible to the public at the exhibit, while the other lives behind the scenes for the time being.

Arabian oryxes, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula and Syrian Desert, went extinct in the wild in 1972 after they were hunted for their hides, meat and horns that can grow taller than two feet.

Operation Oryx was initiated by the Fauna Preservation Society (now Fauna and Flora International) in 1962 with the goal of capturing oryxes for a propagation program and releasing offspring into the wild once numbers picked up.

Three wild animals were sent to a young Phoenix Zoo, but the group wasn’t a herd suitable to start the program.

The Phoenix Zoo gained six more animals by 1964 from the London Zoo, King Saud of Saudi Arabia and a private collection in Kuwait, according to the zoo.

Ten oryxes were introduced to the wild in 1981, and by 2011, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature downlisted the species from endangered to vulnerable. The Arabian oryx became the first species to get upgraded from extinct in the wild to vulnerable.

There were 1,200 animals in the wild in 2022 and 6,000-7,000 in captivity, according to the University of Sydney.

The Phoenix Zoo’s calves are light brown and blend into the desert habitat. The zoo said the young antelope will be more active as they get older.

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Arabian oryx calves born at Phoenix Zoo as species continues to rebound