The oryx is a sturdy, big antelope that consists of four distinctly separate species. Three of the oryx species come from Africa, while the Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) hails instead from the Middle East. The African species are the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), the East African oryx (Oryx beisa) and the gemsbok (Oryx gazella). These family Bovidae animals come from extremely dry environments.
The scimitar-horned oryx no longer roams freely throughout its geographic range, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. These white and brown African antelope previously lived in Chad, Senegal, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Egypt, though presently only reside in captive environments like zoos. Their natural habitat included deserts, dry plains, dunes, dense brush, steppes and rugged hillsides. Diet wise, scimitar-horned oryx consume herbs, grasses, buds and roots.
East African Oryx
The East African or "beisa" oryx lives in eastern Africa, particularly in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya. These brownish-gray antelope feed on fruit, buds, foliage and grasses and generally reside in grassland and bushland environments. In terms of population, unlawful poaching activities are a serious threat for the East African oryx. These antelope have "near threatened" population status, indicates the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species' 2008 evaluation.
The gemsbok is a type of oryx that is prevalent in the southern region of Africa, from Zimbabwe and South Africa to Namibia and Botswana. These beige or grayish antelope thrive in rugged plains, bushland, grassland and woodland environments. Gemsbok consume mostly grass, although in times of scant grass, they usually opt to feed on roots, tubers and cucumbers.
The Arabian oryx is the only oryx that isn't African. These brown, gray or off-white antelope come from the Middle East -- from Iraq to Kuwait on the Arabian Peninsula. They do well when they live in rugged deserts, dry plains and amidst dense brush. The basic diet of the Arabian oryx consists of a lot of shrubs and grasses. In the wild, only roughly 1,000 of these animals still roam freely. However, between 6,000 and 7,000 of them live in captive locales, predominantly in the Middle East, the IUCN reports.
- Animal Diversity Web: Oryx Leucoryx
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Oryx Beisa
- African Wildlife Foundation: Oryx
- San Diego Zoo: Oryx
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Oryx Dammah
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Scimitar-horned Oryx
- Animal Diversity Web: Oryx Dammah
- Animal Diversity Web: Oryx Gazella
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Oryx Gazella
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Oryx Leucoryx
Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images