SCF is providing strategic support through fundraising and communications to the wildlife authorities in Tunisia for the re-establishment of well-managed herds of addax and scimitar-horned oryx. SCF’s input supports the efforts of a wide range of zoos in Europe and the United States (see full list below) and is made possible through donations from the following institutions:
Tunisia leads the way
Scimitar-horned oryx and addax are the largest desert antelopes and formerly inhabited large areas of the Sahara and Sahel. Both species were once common in the region but have suffered catastrophic declines due to excessive hunting, habitat loss and periodic drought. As a result, the scimitar-horned oryx is now extinct in the wild and the addax critically endangered, with only small populations remaining in Chad and Niger. However, with approximately 1400 scimitar-horned oryx and 670 addax managed in zoological institutions around the world, stock is available to re-establish these species in their former ranges.
Tunisia currently leads the way in the reintroduction of scimitar-horned oryx and addax. The country is committed to re-establish both species as part of a national strategy. This involves the establishment of up to four sub-populations of both oryx and addax in fenced protected areas, each several thousand hectares in size. The herds will be managed as a single population with translocation of animals between each area. Once viable populations have been established, the long-term vision is to remove fences in appropriate areas to allow true free-ranging herds to be reintroduced.
Poised for release
To date, releases of captive bred scimitar-horned oryx and addax have been undertaken in several fenced reserves in Tunisia. The first such initiative took place in the Bou Hedma National Park in 1985 and 1986. Ten scimitar-horned oryx from Marwell and Edinburgh zoos in the UK were released into the park, together with eight addax from Hanover Zoo, Germany. The addax population was genetically boosted in 1998 with a further six animals from the United States.
A further shipment of oryx from Europe in 1999 led to the release of ten into Sidi Toui National Park, four into the Oued Dekouk Reserve and a single male to augment the population at Bou Hedma National Park. In 2003, two female oryx, born at Sidi Toui, were translocated to augment the group at the Oued Dekouk Reserve.
As part of Tunisia’s ambitious desert antelope conservation strategy, a further twenty addax and eight scimitar-horned oryx successfully moved from Bou Hedma National Park to protected areas at Djebil, Senghar and Dghoumes in early 2007. The operation was undertaken as part of the CMS/FFEM Sahelo-Saharan Antelope project in partnership with the Tunisian Direction Générale des Forêts and assisted by IGF, ZSL and IRSNB.
The internal translocation paved the way for additional animals to arrive later in the same year from captive breeding programmes in Europe and North America, with the aim of maximizing Tunisia’s antelope gene pool. On the 8th December, 2007, thirteen addax and nine scimitar-horned oryx arrived in Tunisia from captive breeding programmes in the United States and Europe.
The collaboration between Tunisia’s Direction Générale de Forêts (DGF), the North American Species Survival Plan and the European Endangered Species Programme also contributes to the broader Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Action Plan for Sahelo-Saharan Antelopes. The project, which has taken nearly four years to come to fruition, entailing an enormous amount of preparatory work both in Tunisia and internationally, has brought together many participating organizations and donors in a truly international effort for conservation. Partners include:
Artis Royal Zoo Amsterdam, Bamberger Ranch Preserve, Beyond Motion Productions, Brevard Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Buffalo Zoo, Chester Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, Convention on Migratory Species, Dachser Logistiks, Direction Générale des Forêts (Tunisia), Dublin Zoo, Dvůr Králové Zoo, Fondation Internationale pour la Sauvegarde de la Faune, Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial, Fota Wildlife Park, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Kansas City Zoo, Kansas City Zoo AAZK Chapter, Kolmårdens Djurpark, Le Pal Zoo, Lehigh Valley Zoo, Lisbon Zoo, Longleat Safari Park, Marwell Wildlife, Miami Metrozoo, Mulhouse Zoo, Nurnberg Zoo, Paul Chaffee Zoo, Peace River Wildlife Refuge, Prague Zoo, Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure, Sacramento Zoo, Safari Enterprises, Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo Docents, San Antonio Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Smithsonian’s National Zoo/CRC, Stuttgart Zoo, The Living Desert, The Wilds, WAZA, West Midlands Safari Park, Wildlife World Zoo, Zlín Lešná Zoo, Zoo Hannover, Zoological Society of London.
Although logistically and technically challenging, transporting addax and oryx to Tunisia is just the start. Now begins a long-term programme of post release monitoring and training of Tunisian staff to transfer the knowledge and skills required to study and manage these herds of antelope. To prepare for eventual releases into the wild, SCF is also helping the Tunisian authorities survey sites outside of fenced protected areas to identify the best places for full reintroduction.