The reintroduction of scimitar horned oryx (Oryx dammah) in Chad is the happy epilogue of a long scientific work and numerous missions on the territory that have taken place since September 2001 (date of the first scientific mission with SCF in the area del Manga and Wadi Achim Wadi Rimé) and have had their natural development until the last mission of March 2016 during which, thanks to the indispensable economic and practical help of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Ministère de l'Environnement Tchadien, scimitar-horned oryxes are physically "landed" on the territory of Chad, their ancient habitat of choice.
The overwhelming majority of Oryx of Chad were exterminated in a short and brutal period between 1979 and 1982 mainly for the delicacy of his meat, when the country was torn by civil war and partially invaded by Libya. At the time, most of the scimitar-horned Oryx, perhaps 5,000 in the wild, were in fact in Chadian territory. During the many missions during which we accompanied Professor Newby, he told us that he had counted, in 1976, in a single day a thousand specimens in the area of wadi Achim. It is therefore tragic to think that the species has become extinct in nature so rapidly with the death of the last adult male in 1989, hunted on the shores of Wadi Kharma, one of the species' favorite gatherings during the dry season.
Hence one of the big questions that has come back many times over the last few years, as the re-introduction project in Chad gradually took shape: will the same fate await the new arrivals and their progeny? Frankly, in the long run, it is impossible to say; what we know and that has guided the project since its inception, is that we have a unique opportunity of success that will not be presented again so easily.
Over the past few years, Chad, under President Idriss Deby's leader-ship, has concretely demonstrated its commitment to nature conservation through the promulgation and application of rigorous policies and precise anti-poaching legislation. The country has also been very active in developing and strengthening the network of protected areas. In doing so, it has attracted considerable international support and funding from partners, such as the European Union and the African Parks Network.
The second key element is the unique involvement of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the government of Abu Dhabi. Last but not least, the role played by SCF and its collaborating bodies, both as a catalyst in guiding the conservation movement, and technically providing the skills and experience, a prerogative necessary to support the completion of the reintroduction project. Together with SCF, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and thanks to the concrete, effective and tangible action of the Chadian authorities, we are deeply involved in the realization of this bet and active in the field to ensure that the highest possible standards of success are guaranteed to the project.
The plan is to carry out new expeditions and reintroductions in Chad by Oryx with scimitar horns, taking items from the "mother" herd reared in semi-freedom in Abu Dhabi. At regular intervals, the reintroduction of new animals will continue, thus favoring the birth and life of a true wild population over the next 3-4 years. What is not yet known is how it will take place and how it will be absorbed by animals the process of adaptation to reinsertion in nature: a life significantly different from that to which the oryxes are accustomed in semi-captivity. To monitor all this, a large number of released Oryx will be equipped with satellite collars to allow the detection of location data and movements in a new environment for them.
What we know and that we have experienced on our skin is that it was really an indescribable feeling to see the first 25 specimens of these beautiful antelopes perfectly adapted to life in a semi-desert environment: An emotion comparable only to that of a new birth.