Scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah)

Scimitar-Horned Oryx

Go past the giraffe house and the Amur leopards to find us in our new home at Wild Explorers!

Fast facts

Status Extinct in the Wild

Size Head and body length: 160-175cm. Tail length: 60cm

Weight 180-200kg

Gestation 8 - 8½ months

Young 1

Life span Approximately 17 years in the wild, known to live to 20 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Scimitar-horned oryx are herbivores and will mostly feed from grasses, herbs, and roots.  These animals are nomadic and follow the rains to find fresh grassland.

Where do I live?

Scimitar-horned oryx were once widespread across northern Africa and the historic population numbered at least a million animals. Unfortunately, they are now classed as ‘Extinct in the Wild.’


The breeding age of these animals is around 2 years for females, 3-4 years for males. Breeding can occur all year round, but most births in captive populations occur from March to October. The female would separate from the herd to give birth to a single calf, and return to the herd soon after.

Within its first hour of life, a scimitar-horned oryx calf will stand, take its first steps and have its first feed from the mother. The calf will hide in tall grass with its mother close by, until it is old enough to join the herd. If there are other calves of similar age, they will often form a crèche and stay close to each other. The young are fully weaned by 5 to 10 months.


Natural predators of the scimitar-horned oryx are lions, leopard, hyena, and wild hunting dogs.

Similar to other antelope species, the scimitar-horned oryx will use its keen eyesight to look out for danger; being in a herd allows for more individuals to look out for potential threats. When threatened, they will give an alarm call and will run away from the threat. However if they are cornered, they will use their large horns to protect themselves.


Over-hunting is the primary cause of population decline and extinction in the wild. Other factors, such as habitat loss and compteition with domestic livestock for food have contributed as well.
Scimitar-horned oryx are well-equipped to deal with drought, but not under extreme hunting pressure and competition with domestic livestock.

Until the late 1970’s it was estimated that there were several thousand scimitar-horned oryx found in Chad and Niger. However, civil war in Chad combined with drought and increased poaching in Niger devastated the wild population of the scimitar-horned oryx.

In 1985 Marwell and Edinburgh zoo sent 10 scimitar-horned oryx from their collections to the Bou Hedma National Park in Tunisia as part of a re-release programme. An area within this park had dramatically recovered its natural vegetation due to extensive work keeping it free from domestic livestock. 

In 1999 and 2007, Marwell coordinated the release of more scimitar-horned oryx.  Two projects in 1999 included animals from other European institutions and the project in 2007 included animals from North America for the first time. 

We continue to study the ecology and behavior of scimitar-horned oryx.  Scimitar-horned oryx are well represented in many zoos across the world and there are great efforts in place to help conserve this species.

Did you know?

Marwell Wildlife holds the International Studbook for the scimitar-horned oryx. The studbook contains all records all captive animals from zoos and safari parks, as well as some private collections.

This was one of the first species to be kept at Marwell when it opened in 1972, and they are still to this day a part of the Marwell logo.

Scimitar-horned oryx are able to survive 9 to 10 months without water.


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