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Science Gives a Boost to Scimitar Horned Oryx Population

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: August 14, 2021 2:45 am

Smithsonian's National Zoo Scimitar Horned Oryx

The Scimitar-horned oryx calves explore one of the pastures with an adult oryx

Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

Ungulate keepers and scientists at  the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia have welcomed the birth of two scimitar-horned oryxes. The two calves were born through a new non-surgical artificial insemination process developed by the institute.

A male calf was born on July 9th while the female arrived on July 10th 2021. The calves are growing well and are increasing their vocalizations and play behavior as they grow.

“Assisted reproduction for rare and endangered species is constantly evolving,” said Budhan Pukazhenthi, reproductive physiologist at SCBI.

“Scimitar-horned oryx have similar estrous cycles to those of cattle, so we tried a protocol developed for the artificial insemination of livestock called CO-Synch. Narrowing the insemination window helped increase the chance of conception. These births are proof positive we can apply this protocol with increased success in scimitar-horned oryx population management in zoos and for animals being prepared for reintroduction to the wild.”

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Artificial insemination is a process which can help reduce the cost and stress associated with moving animals for breeding. In 2017 scientists at the SCBI produced a process for handling Scimitar horned oryx without the need for anesthesia.

This new CO-synch protocol sees the oryx given three hormone injections in the nine days leading up to a non-surgical insemination. They were then inseminated with semen from males which was collected 20 and 13 years old.

Scimitar horned-oryx are currently considered extinct in the wild. This comes after hunting, habitat loss and drought put strain on their populations.

A release program began in 2016 to try and return the species to the wild. Smithsonian scientists provide tracking of the animals using satellite collars.

Smithsonian's National Zoo Scimitar Horned Oryx

From left to right: Scimitar-horned oryx Leanne (mother of the female calf), male calf, female calf and Esmerelda (mother of the male calf).

Photo Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo

Learn more about the Scimitar Horned Oryx here – Scimitar Horned Oryx Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Smithsonian's National Zoo on their website – Smithsonian's National Zoo

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