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Scientists thrilled after horned animal once deemed extinct in wild upgraded to endangered species list: 'A tremendous achievement'

"The change from the previous category of Extinct in Wild is genuine."

"The change from the previous category of Extinct in Wild is genuine."

Photo Credit: iStock

An animal once considered extinct in the wild has seen its classification changed to "endangered," signifying a remarkable comeback. 

The scimitar-horned oryx has recovered its numbers thanks to the efforts of conservationists and zoos worldwide, and they can now be seen wandering the plains of Chad's Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve after they were first reintroduced in August 2016.

On December 13, the oryx, also known more simply as the scimitar oryx, officially saw its status changed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Between 2016 and 2022, 285 scimitar oryx have been released in the unfenced area, and a population estimate in September 2022 put the total number of the species at 575.  

"The change from the previous category of Extinct in Wild is genuine, as it results from the successful re-establishment of the species in the wild," the IUCN's website reads.

According to the Good News Network, who described the news as a "tremendous achievement," the change of classification for the scimitar oryx is the first time any animal has moved from the "extinct in the wild" designation to "endangered." Further research from the scientific journal Animals reveals that another animal, Przewalski's horse, was downgraded from extinct in the wild to endangered back in 2011, but the feat is exceptionally rare regardless. 

Upon hearing the news, the Zoological Society of London's senior conservation biologist Tim Wacher said: "The return of the scimitar-horned oryx is the result of a long-term conservation effort for the species – following in-depth, careful preparation, and championed and supported by the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi.  

"All Saharan antelope species are severely threatened, but this project is proof that with the right will and resources, we can secure a future for them all."

The ZSL noted that the reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx has also allowed the recovery of the ecosystem in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve.

The scimitar oryx help to maintain grassland and prevent the spread of desertification, providing a natural solution as the region learns to deal with the impact of rising global temperatures exacerbated by human-caused pollution. 

Unfortunately, though, not all animals are so lucky. Earlier in 2023, the United States' Endangered Species Act removed 21 species after they were declared extinct, including varieties of birds, the Little Mariana fruit bat, two types of fish, and eight types of mussels.

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