addaxThe addax, also known as the white antelope and the screwhorn antelope, is an antelope of the genus Addax, that lives in the Sahara desert. It was first described by Henri de Blainville in 1816. As suggested by its alternative name, this pale antelope has long, twisted horns – typically 22 to 31 inches in females and 28 to 33 inches in males. Males stand from 41 to 45 in at the shoulder, with females at 37 to 43 in. They are sexually dimorphic, as the females are smaller than males. The color of the coat depends on the season – in the winter, it is greyish-brown with white hindquarters and legs, and long, brown hair on the head, neck, and shoulders; in the summer, the coat turns almost completely white or sandy blonde. Their head is marked with brown or black patches that form an ‘X’ over their noses. They have scraggly beards and prominent red nostrils. Long, black hairs stick out between their curved and spiralling horns, ending in a short mane on the neck.

The addax mainly eats grasses and leaves of any available shrubs, leguminous herbs and bushes. These animals are well-adapted to exist in their desert habitat, as they can live without water for long periods of time. Addax form herds of five to 20 members, consisting of both males and females. They are led by the oldest female. Due to its slow movements, the antelope is an easy target for its predators: lions, humans, African hunting dogs, cheetahs and leopards. Breeding season is at its peak during winter and early spring. The natural habitat of the addax are arid regions, semideserts and sandy and stony deserts.

The addax is a critically endangered species of antelope, as classified by the IUCN. Although extremely rare in its native habitat due to unregulated hunting, it is quite common in captivity. The addax was once abundant in North Africa, native to Chad, Mauritania and Niger. It is extinct in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan and western Sahara. It has been reintroduced in Morocco and Tunisia.

The addax is a spiral-horned antelope. Male addax stand from 41 to 45 in at the shoulder, with females at 37 to 43 in. They are sexually dimorphic, as the females are smaller than males.The head and body length in both sexes is 47 to 51 in, with a 9.8 to 14 in long tail. The weight of males varies from 220 to 280 lb, and that of females from 130 to 200 lb.

The horns, which are found on both males and females, have two to three twists and are typically 22 to 31 inches in females and 28 to 33 inches in males, although the maximum recorded length is 43 in. The lower and mid portions of the horns are marked with a series of 30 to 35 ring-shaped ridges. The tail is short and slender, ending in a puff of black hair. The hooves are broad with flat soles and strong dewclaws to help them walk on soft sand. All four feet possess scent glands. The life span of the addax is up to 19 years in the wild, which can be extended to 25 years under captivity.

The addax closely resembles the scimitar oryx, but can be distinguished by its horns and facial markings. While the addax is spiral-horned, the scimitar oryx has straight, 50 in long horns. The addax has a brown hair tuft extending from the base of its horns to between its eyes. A white patch, continuing from the brown hair, extends till the middle of the cheek. On the other hand, the scimitar oryx has a white forehead with only a notable brown marking a brown lateral stripe across its eyes. It differs from other antelopes by having large, square teeth like cattle, and lacking the typical facial glands.

Decrease in the population of the addax has begun notably since the mid-1800s.More recently, addax were found from Algeria to Sudan, but due mainly to over hunting, they have become much more restricted and rare.

These are easy to hunt due to their slow movements. Roadkill, firearms for easy hunting and nomadic settlements near waterholes (their dry-season feeding places) have also decreased numbers. Moreover, their meat and leather are highly prized. Other threats include chronic droughts in the deserts, habitat destruction due to more human settlements and agriculture. Less than 500 individuals are thought to exist in the wild today, most of the animals being found between the Termit area of Niger and the Bodélé region of western Chad.

Today there are over 600 addax in Europe, Sabratha (Libya), Giza Zoo (Egypt), North America, Japan and Australia under captive breeding programmes. There are 1000 more in private collections and ranches in United States and the Middle East. Addax is legally protected in Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria; hunting of all gazelles is forbidden in Libya and Egypt. Although enormous reserves, such as the Hoggar Mountains and Tasilli in Algeria, the Ténéré in Niger, the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve in Chad, and the newly established Wadi Howar National Park in Sudan cover areas where addax previously occurred, some do not keep addax any more due to less resources. The addax has been reintroduced in Bou Hedma National Park (Tunisia) and Souss-Massa National Park (Morocco). The first reintroduction in the wild is ongoing in Jebil National Park (Tunisia), Grand Erg Oriental (Sahara) and another is planned in Morocco.