The next animal I want to introduce you to is one I’m almost sure you have never seen, at least not roaming in the wild. It is the Arabian oryx. The Arabian oryx in the wild was hunted to extinction in 1972. For the ten years that followed, Arabian oryx only survived in captivity. In 1982, the nation of Oman began attempting to reintroduce the Arabian oryx into the wild. Some have done very well, but some have become the victims of illegal poaching. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 wild Arabian oryx today.
We’ll take a Jeep ride out into the desert to watch for them. You had better bring lots of water, sunscreen, and a big hat! The desert in Oman is not a human-friendly place. It can reach 110°-122°F (43°-50°C)—and that’s in the shade! It is absolutely amazing how God has made the Arabian oryx able to survive in such a harsh environment!
There, do you see that small herd off to your right? Those are Arabian oryx. They look a little like antelopes, which makes sense when you realize they are part of the same family. There are several subspecies of oryx in the world today. The Arabian oryx, which is sometimes called the white oryx, is the smallest of the subspecies.
Their white coat reflects the heat of the sun, which is one of the ways they stay cool. Their front hooves can be used somewhat like shovels. The oryx use their hooves to dig out the top layers of sand and reach the cooler sand underneath. That way, when they lie down in the sand, they actually give off body heat into the sand. There is even a special way the blood circulates through the oryx’s head that helps cool their blood! God knew what kind of environment the Arabian oryx would live in, and He made sure they had what they needed.
There is something else the Arabian oryx needs to survive in the desert of Oman—water. Oman doesn’t get a lot of rain each year—usually only around 4 inches except in the mountains. The oryx need water to survive, just like people do. God took care of that, too! Take the research challenge below to find out more!
To see some pictures of the Arabian oryx, click here.
To watch some videos of the Arabiran oryx playing, walking, and even fighting, click here.*
*Note to parents: This site contains a series of 9 videos. The first 8 are appropriate for a wide range of ages, however the final video shows behavior that is not appropriate for viewing by younger students. Additionally, there are 39 pictures in a slideshow available on this site, not all of which are appropriate for all ages.
Using the information you find here, answer the following questions:
True or False:
1. The horns of an Arabian oryx can grow almost 6 feet long.
2. You can find Arabian oryx living in the wild all over Asia.
3. The color of the Arabian oryx’s coat can change to help it stay warm or keep it cool in different seasons.
Research challenge: Name at least two ways the oryx are equipped to deal with minimal and unpredictable rainfall in the desert.
Here is a printable notebooking page to enjoy!