Oryx leucoryx (Pallas 1777) Arabian Oryx
Hebrew name: ראם לבן, re’em lavan
Global Threat: EN (D1) – Endangered
Regional Threat: CR (B1) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: In 1997-98 Arabian oryx were reintroduced to nature in the Hazeva area in the northern Arava. The present population occupies an area of about 200 km2. Arabian oryx were released in the Paran-Hiyyon area in the Negev Highlands in 2000-01. This population occupies area of about 400 km2. The reintroduction process is planned through 2004, when the population in the wild is expected to reach about 100 (Saltz & Ma’oz, pers. comm.).
Historic distribution: Dozens of rock drawings of oryx have been found in the Eilat area, as well as in eastern Sinai and southern Jordan. These drawings could possibly testify to the prevalence of this species in southern Israel for thousands of years. In 1920 three Arabian oryx were hunted near Qatarana in Jordan (Mountford 1965). Bodenheimer reported oryx skins sold in 1930 in the Beersheba market (Mendelssohn & Yom-Tov 1988). A British sergeant who served at the En Husub (Hazeva) police station, claims to have seen a lone oryx about 30 km south of En Husub in 1944 (Paz 1981). The Arabian oryx probably became extinct in Israel in the mid or late 19th century.
Typical Habitat: Open landscapes in arid deserts: wadis, hammadas, sandy areas and salt marshes, where grasses, shrubs and acacia trees grow (Qumsiyeh 1996).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Hunting (in the past).
2. Military training zones (entanglement in military equipment – cables, parachutes, etc).
Population Size Estimate: There are over 65 Arabian oryx (in two separate populations) living in nature and reproducing successfully (Saltz & Ma’oz, pers. comm). There are another 85 in the Yotvata Hai-Bar breeding nucleus (Bear, pers. comm.).
Fluctuations in Population Size: The first group released in Hazeva had 21 animals, and one year later 11 more were released. In the Nahal Ada and Nahal Paran area 16 Arabian oryx were released in 2000, and another 13 in 2001.
Isolation between Subpopulations: There are currently two separate populations, one in the northern Arava and another in the Paran and Hiyyon wadis.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Continued telemetric monitoring of animals, in order to evaluated the success of the reintroduction process, population growth, establishment and dispersal.
2. Protection from hunting.
3. Protection of large nature reserves in the large Negev wadis.