Scimitar Oryx

Extinct in wild 1990

Animal Group: Mammal
Regions: Africa
Sub-regions: Middle Africa
Countries: Chad

Hailed as the creature that gave birth to the legend of the unicorn, the Scimitar Oryx is a large group of the species that are now extinct within the wild. They were found across the whole of North Africa, and have been around in popular African culture for more than 200 years.

With spiral-horned antelopes that rise more than 3ft in size, these creatures were known to be exceptionally adaptable to their surroundings. They moved in large packs of up to 70 at a time, and were capable of dealing with extreme heats thanks to their efficient body cooling styles and low water needs, much like a camel.

However, they started to die out thanks to significant climate change that forced them out of certain areas. This changed when humans started hunting them for their horns, until we reach today whereby the creatures are kept in Tunisian, Senegalese and Moroccan institutes to ensure that they are not wiped out completely.

Population Distribution

They were found literally all across North Africa, and tended to be found in deserts and areas that were en route to becoming a desert. They were most commonly found in Chad and Niger, and their widespread population across the fringes of the Sahara Desert made them extremely easily found. They also liked to go into grassy steppe areas, and tended to flock here in numbers. It was estimated that more than 10,000 Oryx were spotted in 1936 in Chad. In fact, by the 1970s more than 95% of the world’s Scimitar Oryx population was also found in Chad.


Typically, their threats came from being hunted due to the fact people loved to own their horns as trophies. They start to go through serious limitations in their numbers, though, when the Sahara began to dry out thanks to major climate change in the region. Before the 20th Century, a vast majority of the population in the north had been completely wiped out. As the Second World War and the Civil War of Chad broke out, many were slaughtered to help provide food for the people. They also became a frequent target of roadkill, and for firearms training for hunters. These causes all eventually drove the Scimitar Oryx into near-enough extinction. Fenced in herds now exist in small parts of the world, and it’s believed that there could be roughly 10,000 held across various parts of the world such as Chad and the United Arab Emirates.