Addax – Critically Endangered Desert Dweller
Listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN on its Red List of Threatened Species, the Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) is receiving attention from conservation groups who are taking action to prevent it from becoming extinct. Mainly through indiscriminate hunting, the Addax has been driven from its original habitat which is believed to have stretched throughout Northern Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula and into the Asian region, known in ancient times as Levant. Research reveals that there are likely less than 300 of these magnificent animals remaining in the wild, but up to 1,600 are found in captivity around the world. Morocco is participating in a program to reintroduce the Addax into the wild in the Souss-Massa-Draâ region, by caring for herds that have been bred in captivity at Germany’s Hanover Zoo.
Referred to as the screwhorn antelope, due to its long horns being twisted like a cork-screw, the Addax weighs between 60 to 120 kilograms and stands at around one meter in height at the shoulder. The coat of an Addax changes with the season, and during the summer months it is almost completely white, while in winter its body turns to a grayish brown, with the hind quarters and legs remaining light in color. Black or brown shading forms an X-shape above the animal’s nose and its nostrils are noticeably red in color. A beard and short mane on the neck, plus a tuft of hair at the end of a short tail are other distinguishing features of the Addax.
Adapted for living in desert conditions, such as those found in Morocco where it is hoped they will once again thrive, the Addax has broad flat-soled hooves, with strong dewclaws to enable it to walk in soft sand. As nocturnal animals, the Addax herd rests during the day, feeding at night on Aristida grasses found in dry habitats, as well as leaves of shrubs when these are available. As they derive the moisture they need from their food, and any dew which may have formed on it, they can survive for extended periods of time without drinking water – an important factor when your home is the desert. It is hoped that through ongoing conservation efforts, the noble Addax may be removed from the IUCN Red List and once again roam free in the desert regions of Morocco.