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Arabian “Unicorn” Is No Longer Extinct (VIDEO)

Arabian “Unicorn” Is No Longer Extinct (VIDEO)

The unicorn lives.

The unicorn in question is the Arabian oryx, an antelope species widely thought to be the real animal behind the legend of the unicorn. Hunted to extinction in the wild — the last wild Arabian oryx was shot dead in 1972 — the Arabian oryx has now made a comeback. Thanks to a captive breeding program, there are now 1000 living in their wild home of the Arabian peninsula.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Arabian oryx has been moved from “endangered” to the less-serious category of “vulnerable” in the latest red list of threatened species. Indeed, it’s the first time a species classified as extinct in the wild has seen such a reversal in its population.

As the Guardian notes, 19 species of frogs, toads and salamanders have been added to the red list, eight of which are critically endangered. Other species are equally threatened:

An estimated 41% of amphibians are at risk of extinction globally, making them one of the most threatened groups of species, with habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species all factors in their decline.

Elsewhere, two-thirds of reptiles only found in New Caledonia, in the Pacific, are at risk of extinction in the first assessment of the group of species.

The IUCN stresses that

Biodiversity loss is one of the world’s most pressing crises, with many species declining to critically low levels. Numerous extinctions are taking place unnoticed, and the number of species classified as Critically Endangered (those at most severe risk of becoming extinct) is increasing. Estimations from the IUCN Red List indicate that extinctions are happening at anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the ‘background’ or natural rate. The causes are many, including habitat destruction, land conversion for agriculture and development, climate change, pollution, illegal wildlife trade, and the spread of invasive species.

More information about the Arabian oryx can be found on this fact sheet (PDF). The video below shows how the Arabian oryx was brought back from extinction.


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Photo by Yoninah (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

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8:19AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

It doesn't show everything. In 1963, nine oryx from private collections in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and from the London Zoo were sent to the Phoenix Zoo because of the similar climate. I remember back then the zoo had just opened in 1962 (a year after I came here) and the keepers had to struggle to figure out how to care for them. They did, though, and now there is a thriving herd at the zoo and many animals have been returned to their countries of origin.

6:45AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Beautiful animals! I'm glad they are recovering.

3:05AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

Great! Thanks for the good news.

6:07PM PDT on Jun 26, 2011


11:19AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

Thanks for such a GREAT NEWS, good luck to them and ALL animals in general.

4:05AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

I hope they make it.

2:45AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

They are beautiful animals, I'm glad they're doing better, but the picture at the top of the article is a scimitar-horned oryx, not an Arabian.

2:37AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

thanks for the good news

1:41AM PDT on Jun 21, 2011

That's wonderful. What incredible horns they have!

2:10PM PDT on Jun 20, 2011


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