With distinctive black facial markings, black bands on their front legs, a black stripe along each flank, and almost perfectly straight horns that grow up to 120cm (4 feet) long, the Beisa Oryx is one of the most striking and recognizable antelopes on the Horn of Africa. Unfortunately, as of 2018, it is also classified as “endangered” on the IUCN List of Threatened Species. (As recently as 1996, it was classified as “low risk”). Current estimates put the number of mature Beisa Oryx between only 8,000 - 9,000 and declining. (The Gemsbok, also of the Oryx genus and commonly seen in Southern Africa, is not considered endangered.)
Other than their appearance, the Beisa Oryx have several other unique characteristics:
Well adapted to their desert grassland habitat, Beisa Oryx can survive without water for almost as long as camels and in extreme conditions can raise their body temperature to 46.5 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) to prevent water loss through perspiration.
After a gestation period of about nine months, a mother will hide her newborn calf for 2 - 6 weeks before introducing it to the herd.
Beisa Oryx will flee from danger rather than fight, but if cornered their long sharp horns are lethal weapons and Oryx have been know to kill even lions.
In contrast to Gemsboks, Beisa Oryx have relatively small herds of about 10 animals. A female always leads the herd with a male taking up the rear to provide protection.
In Ethiopia, Beisa Oryx are most easily sighted in Awash National Park and the Alledeghi Wildlife Reserve, both easily accessible from Addis Ababa.