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theplainswanderer

Gemsboks or Oryx at various locations at Etosha National Park, Namibia

in June 2016

Taken with EOS 7D Mark 2 with Canon 100-400 11 Lens and 1.4 converter

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gemsbok (oryx)

Swartberg Private Reserve, Klein Karoo, South Africa

 

Interesting to see the widely different markings on the two youngsters

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  • 7 months later...

Every one else calls them Oryx, in South Africa they are called Gemsbok. Whatever you call them, they are beautiful.

 

With the Swartberg mountains as a backdrop, Klein Karoo, South Africa

 

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  • 11 months later...

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Oryx in Samburu

 

 
~ Photographed with a Canon EOS 1D X camera mounted with an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens, hand-held, Manual shooting mode.
 
In Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, on 28 April, 2014 at 4:19 pm, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/4000 sec.
 
 
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The bovine look of an Oryx appeals to me. It's a species which brings a smile with each fresh encounter.
 
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Quietly Grazing Oryx

 

 
~ Photographed with a Canon EOS 1D X camera mounted with an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens, hand-held, Shutter Priority shooting mode.
 
In Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, on 3 October, 2014 at 11:23 pm, ISO 160, f/3.2, 1/2000 sec.
 
 
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I love how Oryx horns point straight up while their heads are bent downward for grazing.
 
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Unidirectional.JPG.032d5d593dc9eb1e603fb0cf434e28b3.JPG

 

 

Unidirectional

 

 
~ Photographed with a Canon EOS 1D X camera mounted with an EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II super-telephoto lens, hand-held, Shutter Priority shooting mode.
 
In Samburu National Reserve, Kenya, on 4 October, 2014 at 8:08 am, ISO 125, f/2.8, 1/2000 sec.
 
 
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Whatever has attracted their attention, all are looking without any distraction to deflect their attention.
 
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  • 3 years later...
inyathi

At one time, some taxonomists recognised just one species of oryx, this was the case in the original Collin’s Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa including Madagascar by Theodore Haltenorth, this was I think based on the increasingly outdated definition of a species, that because all oryx can interbreed, they must all be the same species. We now know of a good many related species that can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, nature doesn't always do what scientists would like it to do, I’d always thought that Haltenorth’s taxonomy of the oryx, was somewhat ridiculous, to view the Southern Oryx (Gemsbok) and the East African Oryx as being the same species was not an unreasonable idea, they are at least fairly similar, but to view the Arabian Oryx, Scimitar-horned Oryx and Southern as being the same species, made no sense at all, given how different they are. I was pleased to see when I got the Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals that he had split them and thus recognised four oryx species, with three of them in Africa, the East African Oryx, Southern Oryx and Scimitar-horned Oryx. Some more recent taxonomists have gone to the opposite extreme to Haltenorth and recognise six oryx species, this is the case in the book Bovids of the World, by José R Castelló where he has split the East African Oryx, into three species Beisa Oryx, Fringe-Eared Oryx and Galla Oryx. Perhaps there are solid genetic grounds for doing this, I don’t know, but it doesn’t strike me that the difference between the Biesa and the Galla is noticeable enough to believe that they really are different species. Looking at the photos in that book, I can’t really see the difference between them. He also splits the Southern Oryx into two subspecies, suggesting that the Angolan Gemsbok is distinct from those south of the Kunene River, I’m not sure anyone else recognises the Angolan Gemsbok as a valid subspecies, interestingly the IUCN Red List entry for Gemsbok suggests that they may be extinct in Angola and have been extirpated even from their former stronghold in Iona NP, but this information is out of date, there are certainly still Gemsbok in Iona NP, African Parks in their information on Iona NP list Gemsbok among the fauna present.

 

I have chosen to stick with the taxonomy in the Kingdon Field Guide and Mammals of Africa and just recognise four oryx species, on that basis, I’ve now seen the three African species in the wild but have not been to see the only non-African species the Arabian Oryx in the wild, but one day perhaps.      

 

The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is the only one of the four oryx species to be found outside Africa, it was once found throughout the Arabian Peninsula and up into Iraq, Israel and Syria. Its original distribution included the Sinai Peninsula, but it is possible that it might also have once occurred elsewhere in Egypt, east of the Nile, an Ancient Egyptian painting depicts an oryx hunt, in which the animal is quite clearly an Arabian Oryx and not a Scimitar-horned Oryx, however, whether this is evidence that Arabian Oryx occurred in Egypt at the time or evidence that Egyptians travelled to Arabia to hunt, is not known. Ancient artworks depicting Arabian Oryx have also been found in Iran, but again it is not known if this indicates that the species definitely occurred in Iran.

 

By the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th oryx had been hunted out almost everywhere except for the most inaccessible areas of the Peninsula, after the Second World War as people grew wealthier thanks to oil, they acquired modern firearms and 4x4 vehicles, this allowed them to reach these previously inaccessible areas, where the last oryx herds were found. Just at the time when people were starting to take wildlife conservation really seriously, it was realised that, the Arabian Oryx was perilously close to extinction, just a few small herds remained in the wild and these animals were still being hunted, they would very soon be gone. In 1962 the Fauna Preservation Society now called Fauna and Flora International organised an expedition named Operation Oryx, funded by WWF and led by Major Ian Grimwood who was then the Chief Game Warden of Kenya, to capture some of the last wild oryx in what was then the British Protectorate of Aden, what is now southern Yemen, in order to establish a captive breeding program. It was a race against time to try and find these last oryx before local hunters did, the expedition wasn’t a great success, they only managed to capture four oryx, and one of them died, it was found to have a bullet wound in one of its legs, the three survivors were taken to Kenya, and then from there, they were sent to Phoenix Zoo in Arizona, as the climate there is very similar to that of southern Arabia. It wasn’t a total disaster, as it became apparent following the expedition, that there were in fact quite a few oryx already in captivity particularly in the Gulf, where there were a lot of private collections, ZSL also had some at London Zoo, a female from the zoo was sent to Phoenix and other animals were donated by the Emir of Kuwait and the King of Saudi Arabia. The establishment of this world herd in Arizona, started a highly successful captive breeding program, that came in the nick of time, as the Arabian Oryx was declared extinct in the wild in 1972, in 1982 the first captive bred oryx were released into the wild in Oman many more have been introduced to other parts of their former range, there are I think around 1,200 oryx in the wild and they are the first species listed as extinct in the wild by the IUCN, to be reclassified as vulnerable.

 

IUCN Redlist Map     

 

Although I've not yet seen Arabian Oryx in the wild, I have seen them in captivity.

 

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Arabian Oryx, Marwell Zoo, UK 

 

 

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London Zoo, UK

 

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 Los Angeles Zoo, USA

Edited by inyathi
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Pictus Safaris

One of my very favourite species @inyathi. I've found that oryx can be a wonderful way to get visitors on their first time safari away from an exclusive focus on the 'Big Five', which I think speaks volumes about their universal attractiveness. 

 

Couldn't agree more with your thoughts on the various splits.

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inyathi

The following photos of the reintroduced Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah) in Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, Chad are all shots, that I did not include in my trip report Chad 22: Return to the Wild. The story of the reintroduction of the SHO to OROA has been pretty well covered in this topic First scimitar horned oryx released in OROUA, Central Chad so, I won’t go over all of it again. When the IUCN last assessed the SHO, the reintroduction project in the OROA was only just starting, so they still classified the SHO as extinct in the wild, all previous reintroductions carried out, in Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia have been to fenced reserves, on the Red List website it says

 

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These populations are all maintained in fenced enclosures of varying sizes and are subject to different degrees of management. None is eligible for consideration as a reintroduced population for Red List assessment purposes.

 

It goes on to mention that the first animals had been released in Chad, but that had only just happened so it was obviously too early to change their assessment, but the population now in OROA would be considered as a reintroduction, so whenever the SHO is next assessed, I would hope that the classification will be changed from extinct in the wild to vulnerable, as they’ve done with its Arabian cousin. There should by now be over 500 wild oryx in OROA, I hope that very soon African Parks will reintroduce SHO to the Reserve Naturelle et Culturelle de l’Ennedi in Chad and that Sahara Conservation Fund will reintroduce them to Gadabedji Biosphere Reserve in Niger, there would then be three wild populations and I would hope before too long, there could be several thousand in the wild, that would be some achievement and make the future of the SHO in the wild much more secure.  

 

Given that they still class the SHO as extinct in the wild, the map on the Red List website shows what it’s recent distribution would have been and does not show any reintroduced populations  

     

IUCN Red List Map

 

All photos taken with Canon EOS80D and 100-400mm lens

 

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Scimitar-horned Oryx, Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, Chad by inyathi, on Flickr

 

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Edited by inyathi
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inyathi

The East African Oryx is referred to in the Kingdon Field Guide and in Mammals of Africa as the Beisa Oryx (Oryx beisa) with two subspecies Oryx beisa beisa north of the Tana River up into the Horn of Africa and Oryx beisa callotis the Fringe-eared Oryx south of the Tana River across the border into northern Tanzania, on the IUCN website it says the following

 

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Previously this species was considered a subspecies of the Gemsbok Oryx gazella, but is here treated as distinct following Kingdon (1997), Grubb (2005) and Wacher and Kingdon (2013). Two subspecies are recognized: Beisa Oryx (O. b. beisa) and Fringe-eared Oryx (O. b. callotis), north and south of the Tana River, respectively. The two subspecies are morphologically recognizable and analysis of mtDNA control region and cytochrome b sequences revealed significant genetic differentiation and historic isolation (Masembe et al. 2006). However, three distinct lineages are present within the species, one corresponding to O. b. callotis and the other two within O. b. beisa, the latter demonstrating ancient introgressive hybridization (Masembe et al. 2006, Wacher and Kingdon 2013).

 

As mentioned earlier some taxonomists have then split the Beisa Oryx into three species, Beisa, Fringe-eared and Galla Oryx, but whilst the difference between Beisa and Fringe-eared is quite visible, at least if you have a good view of the ears, I can’t see much difference between Beisa and Galla, and the Galla Oryx is not mentioned in Kingdon and MOA. I’ve opted to stick with one species and two subspecies, but then I don’t have any photos of what should be Galla Oryx anyway, I don’t believe I’ve seen one or if I have, I don’t have photos. However, if the Galla Oryx should be recognised at least as a subspecies (Oryx beisa gallarum), then I understand that it occurs in Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, so some of the photos already posted in this thread would be of Galla Oryx.    

 

IUCN Red List Beisa Oryx

 

Beisa Oryx (Oryx beisa beisa) seen in Awash National Park, Ethiopia (scanned slides)

 

 

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Beisa Oryx, Awash National Park, Ethiopia by inyathi, on Flickr 

 

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Beisa Oryx in the shade

 

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In the evening sun 

 

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Fringe-eared Oryx (Oryx beisa callotis) seen in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania (Canon EOS50D and 100-400mm)

 

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Fringe-eared Oryx, Tarangire National Park, Tanzania by inyathi, on Flickr

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Southern Oryx (Oryx gazella) is more commonly known as the Gemsbok, the name is derived from the Dutch gems, this in turn comes from the German gämse, this is the German name for the Chamois, a type of goat-antelope, found in the mountains in Europe, the name ‘chamois buck’ was presumably given to the oryx, because of its black and white face markings, their face markings are not quite the same, but they are similar, the two animals are not noticeably similar otherwise. But then I imagine that the settlers who went to South Africa would likely never have actually seen a chamois, they are after all mountain animals and there are not many mountains in the Netherlands and I don’t suppose very many of the French or German settlers who joined the Dutch, would have come from the mountains, but I don’t know. When choosing names for the animals they encountered in their new home, they tended to name them after species they were familiar with, hence Eland means Elk (or Moose if you’re from the US) and Rhebok means Roebuck, the resemblance between an Eland and a Moose or a Gemsbok and Chamois, may not be that obvious, the Rhebok which I’ve only ever seen in photos, has the one name that does actually make sense as they do look quite a lot like Roe Deer, albeit being antelopes they have horns and not antlers. For anyone unfamiliar with the Chamois here is a photo.   

 

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Gämse (Rupicapra rupicapra) Zoo Salzburg 2014 g-crop
Manfred Werner - Tsui, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Gemsbok live primarily in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, hence their alternative common name Southern Oryx, they also just occur in the Hwange region of Zimbabwe and in Namibe Province in Angola the north end of the Namib Desert, it was assumed that Gemsbok might be extinct in Angola, the IUCN Red List says possibly extinct, but this was found not to be the case and they do still occur in Iona NP now managed by African Parks, how many if any occur elsewhere in Namibe, I don’t know.

 

IUCN Gemsbok

 

In 1959 an American archaeologist and big game hunter by the name of Frank C. Hibben travelled to the Sahara to hunt Scimitar-horned Oryx and Addax, he was taken by the similarity between the landscapes he was hunting in and the landscapes in his home state of New Mexico where he was chairman of the New Mexico Game Commission. Bemoaning the fact that there were few large animals for hunters to go after in New Mexico, he foolishly decided that New Mexico could probably support populations of exotic ungulates that hunters could then pursue, and opted to introduce Persian Ibex and Gemsbok. 18 Gemsbok were duly captured in Africa and shipped to the US, but under federal law animals imported from another country could not be released into the wild, so the oryx were kept in captivity, however, whoever devised the law did not think it through, because whilst they could not release the imported oryx they could release calves born to these captive antelopes. Between 1969 and 1973 93 Gemsbok were released into the wild at the White Sands Missile Base, it was wrongly assumed that the population would not grow that much and would remain confined to White Sands, but unlike in Africa in New Mexico they have no natural predators, Mountain Lions/Pumas might take a calf occasionally, but the opportunity doesn’t likely arise very often, adults would be too big and dangerous to risk trying to take one down, and their paths don’t cross that often as the Pumas are mostly in the mountains. Mexican Wolves and Jaguars that could potentially hunt them are both extinct in the area. As a consequence, the population has grown significantly and they have expanded beyond the missile base, causing significant problems, fences have had to erected to try and keep them out of White Sands National Park to prevent them from damaging the local flora. Numbers are controlled by hunters but probably not enough, if left unchecked they would spread into Texas and over the border into Mexico.

 

A graceful gazelle becomes a pest

 

The exotic oryx is wearing out its welcome in the Chihuahuan Desert   

 

Oryxes Taking Over White Sands Range

 

White Sands National Park African Oryx

 

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Gemsbok with Sable herd in Hwange NP Zimbabwe by inyathi, on Flickr

 

This Gemsbok had obviously got slightly lost and had hooked up with a herd of Sable for company and safety

 

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I presume that Gemsbok are not particularly common in Hwange, as on my one visit to the park this is the only one that I saw and seeing one with a herd of Sable was quite a surprise as, you wouldn't really expect to find them in the same habitat. 

 

The following photos are all from Namibia 

 

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Daan Viljoen Game Reserve

 

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Gemsbok or southern oryx near Sesriem Namib Naukluft NP

 

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Gemsbok at the picnic site near Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft 

 

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This oryx started to get a little too close for our guides liking whilst we were having lunch, so he threw a stick or something at it, just to make it move on and go somewhere else, you wouldn't want to get too close to those horns. 

 

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Gemsbok at the Kuiseb River mouth near Walvis Bay  

 

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Huab River Damaraland 

 

The great thing about Gemsbok in Namibia is seeing them in the extraordinary desert landscapes 

 

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Huab River 

 

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Edited by inyathi
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Since I mentioned in my first contribution that all Oryx were once considered to be a single species, I thought I’d add these two photos of a Gemsbok in the Namib and a captive Scimitar-horned Oryx at Marwell Zoo in the UK, for comparison. it is a little difficult to see how they could really have been thought to be the same species.

 

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Gemsbok at the picnic site near Deadvlei in Namib-Naukluft NP

 

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Besides the very obvious difference in the shape of their horns and their body size, I hadn’t realised until comparing them that, Gemsbok have much larger more dish like ears than the SHO does, their ears are really quite narrow.

I was also interested comparing my photos of captive and wild SHO, I noticed that the face markings of the animals notably the brown blaze down the face seems darker on many of the wild oryx, I don’t know if this is to do with the age of the animals or the time of year, my Chad photos were taken in February whereas all of my captive SHO shots were taken in August. Their pelage does vary according to the seasons in the summer their coat is very short and very white, in the winter it is slightly longer and they have a brown wash on their sides most noticeably on their rumps, this difference seems to be quite apparent in my photos with the wild oryx being much browner than the captive ones, even though the seasons in the Sahel are rather different to the seasons in the UK. The Gemsbok has the most obvious and substantial flank stripe of the different oryx, SHO generally only have the hint of a flank stripe, however, on a few of the wild oryx you can clearly see a narrow flank stripe.  

 

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Scimitar-horned Oryx, Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, Chad 

 

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Longleat Safari Park, England 

 

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 Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, besides having quite a brown rump the flank stripe though very narrow is clearly visible.

 

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Marwell Zoo

 

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Marwell Zoo 

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