Eastern and southern Africa; Oman and Jordan (Arabian oryx only)


Desert and semidesert, steppes, and savanna

Horns a'plenty

Oryx are strikingly beautiful antelope with long, straight, and slender horns. These horns, carried by both males and females, give the oryx their nickname of spear antelope." Oryx are often called gemsbok (pronounced JEMS baak) in Africa, but in Germany, gemsbok is the common name for the chamois, a type of goat-antelope! Having a scientific name as well as a common name helps people around the world know which animal they're talking about.

It’s HOT here!

Because of their dry habitat, food can be scarce for oryx, so the males follow their harem herd to protect it rather than trying to defend a large food range or territory. Oryx have an unusual circulation system in their head: they are able to cool the blood flowing to their brain through the capillaries in their nose as they breathe. This is very helpful when you live in the desert!

Beisa oryx and fringe-eared oryx, which are gemsbok subspecies, can tolerate periods of extreme heat by raising their body temperature to 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius), causing heat to leave their body for the surrounding cooler air and not losing moisture through sweating or evaporation. When it gets too hot, they dig shallow holes for resting and cooling down.

Oryx can sense rainfall far away and travel up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) to feed on freshly sprouted vegetation.
Scimitar-horned oryx are all but extinct in the wild, yet they are one of the most common antelope species in zoos.
Gemsbok horns are usually 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters) long but the record length is 4 feet (1.2 meters).

Currently, the Safari Park has large herds of Arabian orxy, fringe-eared oryx, gemsbok, and scimitar-horned oryx. They can be seen from the Park’s Africa Tram Safari or Caravan Safari.

Scimitar-horned oryx Oryx dammah once ranged across North Africa but are believed to be extinct in the wild and currently live only in zoos. The good news for the future of these animals is that there are several successful breeding herds in zoos. San Diego Zoo Global has had over 500 scimitar-horned oryx births, a world record! Perhaps one day these animals can be reintroduced to the wild.

Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx are endangered. Sadly, this antelope of the Arabian Peninsula and Sinai Desert became extinct in the wild by the late 1960s, mostly due to hunters with high-powered rifles. In an effort to help save these animals, nine Arabian oryx from private collections in Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, as well as from the London Zoo, were moved to the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona. These nine oryx became known as the World Herd. A second breeding group of three oryx, from a zoo in Saudi Arabia, was started at the Los Angeles Zoo, and in the 1970s, animals from both of these herds were sent to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

As of 2012, 359 Arabian oryx have been born at the Park! In one of the great success stories of conservation, Arabian oryx have been returned to Oman and Jordan for reintroduction in their native range.

You can help us bring oryx and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.