East Africa: Oryx, a Gorgeous Antelope Who Conquers the Arid Savannah of East Africa

OF all antelope species found in the whole of East African national park and game reserves the Oryx Beisa Beisa or the East African Oryx is the most beautiful dweller who is clearly identified by their 100 cm long and lethal but astonishing horns.

An Oryx with a handsome horse like figure is decorated with a narrow strip of black mane on top of its back which runs from the neck toward the rear side and widen before joining the medium sized tail made up with long black tuft.

The main body of this strikingly looking antelope is covered by a very grey coat with a white underside which is separated from the grey by a line of black fur running across the lower belly with part of it stoking the upper parts to the knees of both hind and forelegs for more beautiful outlook.

From the torso in the middle of forelegs through the lower part of the neck, the black stripe goes to the lower part of the head then forms a line which passes through the eyes to cover the base of the horns to central part of the forehead and differentiate it from a white mouth for indisputable very beautiful outlook of the East African Oryx.

The head of the Oryx is equipped with long trumpet like ears which smarten its image and capable of picking sound in a desert type environment where strong winds are able to send signals and noise from your enemies away.

The East African Oryx lives in semi desert areas where they form herds of 4 to 40 animals consisting of female who walk with their calves, semi adult females and subordinate or less important males.

To prove their presence in the group the non territorial males work as defenders of the families under guardianship of an Alpha Bull who walk from behind of a caravan which is always led by matured females marching to a food source which may be located in a distance place.

If the matured female who is called Matriarch fails to take the proper direction then the Alpha bull will march to the front position and lead the caravan toward their highly singled out destination, while the these bulls do not allow strange male into their group.

This act by non territorial males proves that the role of masculinity in the Savannah of East Africa is not only for sexual desire but for security of the harems which surround them.

Matured and dominant Oryx males lead solitary lives and occupy territories ranging from 8 to 34 square kilometres which are demarcated with dung deposits and depend on topography and availability of food to feed visiting female and their siblings who come to graze for grasses leaves and buds from thorn bushes.

Apart from having an outstanding body the East African Oryx lead a very attractive way of life whereby the dominance among males is based on size and age whereby male calves as they grow up start to establish their position on the hierarch by assessing each other through test of strength which looks like games of fighting until the victor is found when wrestling is not needed anymore.

Sometime this ritual of establishing the most dominant male end up of creating two rivalry victors who will be forced to fight using their long sharp horn by clashing them until one is weakened or wounded and frightened to fight on so forced to accept defeat and let the winner to establish a highly respected position in the group.

The final stage of establishing the hierarch is marked by a beautiful side to side spectacular parade like ritual which is performed by all males in the group and involves slow prancing walk with short busting runs which finishes with clashing of horns.

The process of establishing hierarchy among male starts when they are 6 years old but some strong hearted male Oryx don’t just run away but walk off into a nearby area and establish a rivalry territory against his former title contender.

In the midst of ditch borders dug and filled with dung deposits from each, the two male will live side by side in two separate counties while both of them trying to win or force visiting young and older females into his territory for polygamy way of life exclusively without involving others.

Female become sexually matured when they are 2 years old but their male counterpart will wait until they reach 5 years when they may be able to show flehmening behaviour whereby bulls open their upper lips to expose their teeth after sneezing urine of wives to check their estrus or reproductive status.

There is no specific season of breeding within the Oryx society so when females come into heat a bull will follow trying to persuade her for copulation but if she doesn’t feel like doing she will run away for a short distance and turn around to face him.

A bull in a full sexual moody will not stop there but keep a close look until the right moment arrives when the female show flehmen behaviour by standing steady while stretching her head forward, pull backward the horn and turning its tail sideway to welcome him.

When the bull sees these signs which may last for some second he will come to mount her but the actual sexual act will take place repeatedly after the female pull up her dangerous horn from the back where they were placed during the welcome act was underway.

Female Oryx may conceive at the age of 9 months and spend another 9 months for gestation before giving birth to a brown calf weighing between 9 to 15 kg who is able to stand and run with its mother after first few minutes of its life.

Like other antelopes female Oryx give birth at hiding place for the safety of her new born who will stay out of reach for 2 to 3 weeks while the mother visiting it three times a day for milking and survey the security status of the area.

At this stage the black marks will appear to allow the mother to take the youngster into the group where it will be introduced to its relatives while suckling for 6 to 9 months before being weaned and most semi adult bulls are forced out of the group to establish their own territories.

Although female start their oestrus cycles after 24 days of the last birth but their bodies are capable of stopping fertilization for about a year especially during wet season when condition is good to conceive and give birth to another calf.

Most of the time Oryx avoid fighting among themselves because they know the danger of doing it with their long and sharp horns but if they are forced to fight they will bend their knees and exchange downward blows until one feels he can’t do it anymore and run away.

Some time things get tough and these well built antelopes may fight to a point where one of them crack and lose a horn or even killed because these battles involve usage of energy and deadly sharp horns.

Together with Sable and Roan Antelopes who are their close relatives both sex carry horns with males having stronger long ones than those of females which both sex use them for defence against predators such as Lions and Hyenas and manage to scare or even kill them that is why some people call the East African Oryx a Sabre Antelope.

This is done when the Oryx is corned and forced to jump into a bush where it will come out forcefully while lowering the head to point the sharp horns forward and toward its enemy whom it will obvious kill and run away.

The Oryx dwells in the semi desert area where water and grasses as main food for Antelopes is not abundant like in the Tropical Savannah which is covered with different kind of vegetation which feed different spices of herbivorous and omnivorous.

To adapt this hard condition, the Oryx was forced to develop appetite of eating succulent wild cucumber, melons, roots and tubers which they dig out from the ground.

All these help them to regulate the need of direct water supply from streams and rivers by 25 to 40 per cent which enable them to go for many days in a year without water although they are capable of drinking 100 litres per day.

To flourish into this hush condition, the Oryx bodies has special ability of rising the internal temperature to 116 degrees Fahrenheit or 47 degrees Celsius to avoid sweating and loss of water through evaporation.

This mechanism work as a car carburetor whereby blood with hot air passes through a coordination of veins along the nasal passage where temperature is cooled down before being sent to the brain with blood to be circulated to other parts of the body but when the situation become worse the Oryx will dig a hole under a bush and hide from direct sunrays.

If drought continue and water become totally unavailable in the area Oryx will turn into their very powerful noose which are able to smell rain droops located more than 90 km away.

Normally Oryx graze for grasses in the morning so that to maximize food and moisture and browse for plant leaves in the evening to avoid higher temperature in the afternoon when they relax to regurgitate the undigested food from their stomach before swallowing it for the last time.

This semi desert dweller antelope stands between 1.15 to 1.25 metres high at the shoulder, and presents a tail to nose tip body length of 1.80 and 1.95 metres as males being slightly bigger than females who weigh between 178 and 225 kg while males weigh approximately between 180 and 240 kilogrammes.

Oryx have large and strong hoofed feet capable of holding the body firmly as the animal cruise through the sand at speed of 64 to 89 km per hour in a desert like environment which is found between 800 to 1,300 metres above sea level.

Originally Oryx were found only in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and the whole of Arabian Peninsula but some thousand years ago situation changed and they were forced to migrate to Africa were they changed their colour to be able to live in a semi-arid land.

In Tanzania national parks which harbours this rare antelope are Mkomazi, Tarangire, Arusha and Manyara while in Ngorongoro Conservation Area has a good number of them dwelling on the border with Serengeti National Park.

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