Today, there are just three remaining Saharan Addax surviving in the wild. This strikingly beautiful antelope once roamed huge tracts of North Africa, from Algeria to Sudan, but today the species has been so heavily abused it may soon exist only in captivity. Researchers & Preservationists who undertook an extensive survey in March are calling for heavy protection to be deployed to guard the last remaining population.
“We are witnessing in real time the extinction of this iconic and once plentiful species – without immediate intervention, the Addax will lose its battle for survival in the face of illegal, uncontrolled poaching and the loss of its habitat,” admits Dr. Jean-Christophe Vié, the Deputy Director of the IUCN Global Species Programme. Even though it’s illegal to kill the animals, it seems that hunting of the Saharan Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) has driven them to the very edge of extinction.
The last survey of the Addax population was taken in 2010, and it found around 200 of the animals roaming the deserts of the Sahara and brush of the Sahel. But a recent census in March this year saw an aerial survey cover 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles), during which they did not spot a single Addax. It was only after a ground team searched 700 kilometers (435 miles) of desert, and followed 10 kilometers (6 miles) of footprints, that they found just three thin, nervous-looking Addax at the end of the trail.
The largest identifiable factor in the antelopes’ decline has been the civil unrest and war in Libya in 2011. With the collapse of the government, militia took off into the desert, often heading into regions containing significant wildlife populations. Other wars, such as the upheavals in Mali and Nigeria, have also had significant impacts on the antelope. But as if that wasn’t enough, oil installations, mainly in Niger and operated by China National Petroleum Corporation, have also caused significant harm. Soldiers posted to protect these sites have been known to illegally kill the Addax whenever they are spotted.
But there’s a glimmer of hope! Although there are several Addax spread across the globe, the antelope have a large population in Texas (for meat and for sport hunting). Hearing of the crisis, several ranchers in Texas have invested resources to increase their stock. The goal is to eventually release them back into wildlife preserves and protected areas.