Saturday, May 16, 2015

The East African Oryx

The East African Oryx (Oryx beisa), also known as the Beisa. Occurs in two subspecies, Common Beisa Oryx (Oryx beisa beisa) and Fringe-eared Oryx (Oryx beisa callotis) which are found in semi-desert throughout the Horn of Africa and north of the Tana River. The oryx weighs around 175 kilograms (350 pounds) and stands at a height of above a metre at the shoulder. They have a grey coat with a white underside, separated from the grey by a stripe of black; there are also black stripes where the head attaches to the neck, along the nose and from the eye to the mouth and on the forehead. The oryx, is a true desert animal, with long, spear-like horns, thick, horse-like neck with a short mane and a compact, muscular body. The ringed horns are thin and straight which are found on both sexes and typically a measure of 75–80 cm. The dominance hierarchy among oryx is based on age and size. As they grow, calves assess one another in tests of strength that look like games. Ritual displays replace actual contact, except when evenly matched individuals may have to fight to establish their rank. A female leaves the herd to give birth and hides the calf for 2 or 3 weeks, visiting a few times a day to nurse it. The newborn is an inconspicuous brown color. The black markings begin to appear when the calf is ready to return to herd with its mother. Calves are suckled for 6 to 9 months and reach maturity at 18 to 24 months. Like the other antelopes the oryx feeds in early morning and late afternoon. 

Their diet mainly consists of coarse grasses and browse from thorny shrubs. In desert areas they consume thick leaved plants, wild melons, and roots and tubers they dig out of the ground. With Some plants increasing their water content by 25 to 40 percent, so when oryx feed late at night or early in the morning, they maximize both food and water sources. They are able to store water by raising their body temperature. oryx are hunted for their meat and hide and  in many cultures, the horns of the oryx are sought after as charms; even in medieval England they were marketed as unicorn horns. Also lions, hunting dogs, hyenas and leopards. The oryx is a good example of an antelope that has successfully adapted to the harsh conditions of dispersed food, intense heat and little or no water. The female comes into heat soon after giving birth. The more frequent estrus cycles enable females to produce calves at 9-month intervals. 

Peter K. Philip
Natural Track Safaris

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