Rolling Hills Zoo is welcoming another addition to its animal family.
According to the zoo, two new female scimitar-horned oryx arrived Tuesday afternoon as part of the Scimitar-horned Oryx Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), of which Rolling Hills Zoo is an accredited member.
Born in March 2019 and raised at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose Texas, these young, un-named, oryx came to Rolling Hills Zoo on a breeding recommendation by the SSP. They will be on exhibit at the Zoo, while the Zoo’s current male, Nas, moves to the pasture.
The Zoo’s other male oryx, Tootles, is being transferred to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center where he will breed with the female oryx who live there.
“We have always held surplus males or older non-breeding pairs at Rolling Hills Zoo, so these females will be the first of four breeding females to join the herd,” shared Brenda Gunder, Rolling Hills Zoo Curator. “With only 214 animals in the SSP oryx population, we are one of only 18 AZA facilities to hold this endangered species and the only zoo in Kansas.”
A century ago, hundreds of thousands of these desert-adapted antelopes were known to span across the arid ecosystems of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan. But due to human encroachment, unregulated hunting, prolonged drought and loss of food because of excessive livestock grazing, the population numbers began to rapidly decline. The known last photo of oryx taken in the wild was in Niger in 1980. While unconfirmed reports stated that a few wild oryx remained in the wilderness of Chad in 1996, no definite evidence of any survival was ever obtained. So in 2000 the scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild.
Rolling Hills Zoo has been a supporter of the Sahara Conservation Fund which supports a scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction program in Chad. The reintroduction program began in 2016 as a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. The goal of the reintroduction program is to build up a viable, free-ranging and self-sustaining population of at least 500 animals. To date, more than 150 captive-bred scimitar-horned oryx have been returned to the wild in Chad’s Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve. If it were not for private collections and zoos, like Rolling Hills Zoo, the scimitar-horned oryx would have completely disappeared.