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Phoenix Zoo announces birth of 2 Arabian oryx calves; a species previously extinct in the wild

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Arabian Oryx calf - Phoenix Zoo

TUCSON (KVOA) – The Phoenix Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of two female Arabian oryx calves, both of which were born at the zoo on Feb. 13. 

One of the calves (pictured above) belongs to a female named Debbie and is currently visible to the public at the Phoenix Zoo. The other calf, belonging to a female named Ruby, is currently living behind the scenes. 

Although the Arabian oryx can be found throughout many zoos throughout the world, this wasn’t always the case. 

In the 1960’s, the Arabian oryx was hunted extensively for both food and because it was presumed their horns contained magical powers. The animal later went extinct in the wild in 1972.

The Phoenix Zoo, in response to the rapid decline in the Arabian oryx population, joined together with the Fauna and Flora International Society (FFI) and others in 1962 to form “Operation Oryx.”

According to the Phoenix Zoo, “The FFI began plans to initiate a mission to Aden in April of 1962. The objectives were to capture as many oryxes as possible, relocate them into a suitable propagation program, and reintroduce offspring back into the wild once numbers were high enough to do so. Operation Oryx was on!”

By 1964, the Phoenix Zoo had assembled nine Arabian oryxes to form a “World Herd,” which would be responsible for helping restore their original numbers in the wild. 

In 1981, 30 years after they had gone extinct in the wild, the Arabian oryx was reintroduced in the wild. In 2011, the species was downlisted from endangered to vulnerable.

The current total population of Arbian oryxes is estimated at 1,220 individuals.

“The successful Operation Oryx had involved no less than six world governments, five zoos, many organized societies, conservation organizations and hundreds of dedicated individuals… The recovery of Arabian oryx is the first time that a mammal previously extinct in the wild has been recovered to the point where they were delisted – another great testament to the success of Operation Oryx,” said the Phoenix Zoo.

To learn more about Operation Oryx, please click here.

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