Rule meant to save exotic antelope will hurt species, ranchers say
March 30, 2012
By Tony Freemantle
Its horns, sometimes up to 4 feet long, arc gracefully over its back, almost reaching its hindquarters when it lifts its head to sniff the wind. Vast herds of them once roamed the semi-arid plains of North Africa and the Sahel, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
It was named in an inscription on the Egyptian tomb of Sabu of Sakkarah nearly 23 centuries ago, and is thought to be the inspirational template for the unicorn.
In 2000, after finally succumbing to hunting, loss of habitat, climate change and war, the scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild.
But not in Texas, where it has returned from the brink and now thrives in greater numbers than anywhere on Earth, and where it finds itself at the center of a modern, protracted new battle for survival.
That battle is lost next Wednesday, Texas ranchers fear, when the scimitar-horned oryx and two of its African cousins - the addax and the dama gazelle - officially receive full protection under the Endangered Species Act.
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