The Arabian oryx is one of the best desert-adapted large mammals, capable of living in a waterless, hot, high-wind habitat where few other species can survive. Arabian oryx live in a variety of desert habitats including stony plains, wadis, and sand dunes.
They will drink water when they find it, but can exist for weeks without it. Water is obtained by eating plants. Arabian oryx mainly eat grasses and herbs, but they will also eat roots, tubers, bulbs, and melons. Succulent bulbs and melons are the primary items for moisture.
Arabian oryx eat mainly at night when the plants are most succulent after absorbing nighttime humidity. They also obtain moisture from the condensation left on rocks and vegetation after heavy fog.
Arabian oryx have a number of strategies to help them cope with desert conditions, including being able to let their body temperature drastically increase, as well as concentrating their urine and removing moisture from their feces. When the weather is hottest, oryx will spend most of the day sheltering in shade and then forage for food at night. In cooler weather, they bask in the sun and feed during the day to keep warm.
The Arabian oryx has a white coat with black markings on its face, and its legs are dark brown to black. Its predominantly white coat reflects the sun’s heat in summer, and in winter the hairs on its back rise to attract and catch the sun’s warmth.
They became classified as “Extinct In The Wild” in 1972 and were first reintroduced in Oman with 10 animals in 1982, followed by reintroductions in Saudi Arabia, Israel, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Jordan. In 1986, they were upgraded to “Endangered.”
While there are approximately 1,220 wild oryx across the Arabian Peninsula, the population is considered stable, hence the IUCN status designation of “Vulnerable” as of 2021. In fact, it is close to being upgraded to “Near Threatened.”
There are more than 6,000 of these oryx in semi-captivity. Arabian oryx in protected areas are generally safe, but those that wander out of the protected areas are in danger of being poached. Most wild Arabian oryx are located in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In 2011, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified the Arabian oryx to “Vulnerable” from Endangered, marking the first time an animal species that was once Extinct In The Wild improved in status by three-full categories out of six on its Red List of Threatened Species. However, this species remains under threat from illegal hunting, overgrazing, and droughts.
They have broad hooves for walking great distances on loose gravel and sand. Lance-like, three-foot long horns are weapons used for defense and fighting.
Calves lie hidden for about a month, with just short periods of activity. They are weaned by 4.5 months of age. The main non-human predators of Arabian oryx are thought to be jackals, which prey on calves.
At Fossil Rim, Arabian oryx live in the Game Preserve pasture - the fourth pasture you enter.
Where are they?
Arabian Oryx live in the fourth pasture you enter. They are often seen off to the right as you head up “Cheetah Hill,” as well as in the flat portion of the pasture near the Giraffe Barn.
Arabian oryx will generally be seen in wide-open areas of the pasture. They are the brightest-white shade among all antelope at Fossil Rim, so they usually stand out.
Species Survival Plan
Man and jackal
Grasses, herbs, tubers and roots
Originally Native To
36 inches at shoulder
Male 250 lb.
Antelope with long (2.5 - 3 feet) straight horns for both sexes; tasseled tail
Nomadic herd centered on bull; other males solitary