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Can You Live for 9-10 Months Without Water?

I didn’t think so. But the Scimitar-horned Oryx, today’s Endangered All-Star, can. You can’t get more endangered: This species is considered Extinct in the Wild, the last stop on the IUCN’s Red List before total annihilation. With its wide desert-adapted hooves, perfect for trekking across sand dunes, this oryx once roamed sub-desert steppe grasslands in and around the Sahara in large migratory herds, from Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt in the north to Mauritius and Sudan in the south, feeding on fruits, leaves, and grasses. Heavy hunting by Europeans in the 19th century—for trophy horns, meat, and the animal’s heavy, valuable hide—took a severe toll. World War II and subsequent regional civil wars increased the hunting pressure, until the species was considered extinct across its range by 1999. Happily, however, the oryx survives in captivity: There are captive herds held in fenced protected areas in Tunisia, Morocco, and Senegal. Reintroductions are planned in all of those countries, as well as in Niger. There are also privately owned herds, of up to several thousand, in the United Arab Emirates and in Texas. Israel has a small group as well, although it lies outside the species’ natural range. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo, which donated nine oryx to Tunisia, reported in 2008 that the captive herd would be kept in a 20,000 fenced area in Dghoumes National Park for about a decade, or until its numbers have recovered enough—and the herd has acclimated sufficiently—to return to the wild.
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