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The Arabian oryx once ranged throughout the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula extending to the Syrian Desert. It had been hunted since ancient times, but with the advent of motorized vehicles and high-powered weapons, its numbers drastically declined in the 1940s and ‘50s.

In 1962, just months after opening, the Phoenix Zoo agreed to participate in “Operation Oryx,” a breeding program that produced oryx for reintroduction into their natural habitat. In June of 1963, nine of the last few remaining Arabian oryx arrived at the Zoo to form what would be known as the world herd. In 1972, oryx were considered extinct in the wild, but because of the Phoenix Zoo’s efforts,  we were able to reintroduce Arabian oryx back into their native range in 1980.  The current wild population estimate is approximately 1,100 animals.

The Phoenix Zoo is proud to have played a significant role in saving the Arabian oryx from extinction in the wild.  “Operation Oryx” was one of the first examples of zoos working in concert with species recovery.  Our current conservation mission of ex situ support for in situ conservation efforts is a continuation of our commitment to species conservation worldwide. 


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