Oryx gazella


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Oryx gazella
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Gemsbok
Oryx gazella (Linnaeus, 1758) subspecies gazella
Taxonomic Notes: This is a monotypic species including only those animals from southern Africa, with O. beisa from northeast Africa here regarded as a distinct species (see Grubb 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group
Reviewer(s): Mallon, D.P. (Antelope Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment)
Listed as Least Concern as the species is numerous and widespread, and populations are currently stable or even increasing. The Gemsbok’s future is secure as long as it continues to occur in large numbers on private land and in protected areas in Southern Africa. Its high value as a trophy animal should ensure further increases in its numbers on private land.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Gemsbok formerly occurred widely in the semi-arid and arid bushland and grassland of the Kalahari and Karoo and adjoining regions of southern Africa, with a marginal intrusion into south-west Angola (East 1999; Knight in press). The extensive contraction of its distribution and decline of its numbers which accompanied the expansion of human activities in Southern Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries have been partly compensated in the last 10 - 20 years by the widespread reintroduction of Gemsbok to private land and protected areas. Today, they remain widely, albeit patchily, distributed in south-western southern Africa, although populations in Angola are now considered extirpated, even from the former stronghold in Iona N.P. (East 1999). They have also been introduced in small numbers to areas outside their natural range, such as private game ranches in Zimbabwe (East 1999).
Botswana; Namibia; South Africa; Zimbabwe
Possibly extinct:
Angola (Angola)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population estimates are available for almost all of this species’ range. Summation of these estimates gives a total population of 326,000, but actual numbers are probably higher because of an unknown level of undercounting bias in aerial surveys. Assuming an average correction factor for undercounting bias of 1.3 would give a total population estimate of 373,000. Overall population trend is increasing in private farms and conservancies and protected areas, and stable elsewhere (East 1999).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Adapted to waterless wastelands uninhabitable for most large mammals, Gemsboks inhabit semi-arid and arid bushland and grassland of the Kalahari and Karoo and adjoining regions of Southern Africa. They are is equally at home on sandy and stony plains and alkaline flats. It ranges over high sand dunes and climbs mountains to visit springs and salt licks.

Although they are predominantly grazers, they broaden their diets in the dry season to include a greater proportion of browse, ephemerals and Acacia pods. They drink water regularly when available, but can get by on water-storing melons, roots, bulbs, and tubers, for which it digs assiduously. Adaptations to living in a desert environment are summarized by Knight (in press).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Proportion of specimens taken from the wild and from private ranches is not known.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Presently there are no major threats to the survival of the species. In the past its numbers and its distribution decline significantly due to the expansion of human activities in Southern Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries. Yet, in the last two decades there has been widespread reintroduction of Gemsbok to private land and protected areas, For example, in Namibia the largest numbers occur on private farmland, where the estimated population increased from 55,000 in 1972 to >164,000 in 1992 (East 1999).

Despite this favourable trend, in some areas such as south-western Botswana its distribution is increasingly restricted to protected areas, to the point where there are now two discrete concentration areas within this region, in Central Kgalagadi-Khutse Game Reserves and within and to the north and east of Gemsbok National Park. Outside these protected areas, it occurs mainly in areas of the Kalahari without cattle (East 1999).

Its ability to meet its survival needs within a relatively small area of semi-arid or arid savanna, even during severe droughts, enable it to occupy much smaller mean annual ranges than migratory species such as blue wildebeest and red hartebeest. The gemsbok’s independence of surface water and non-migratory behaviour have enabled it to largely escape the adverse effects of veterinary cordon fencing (East 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The largest numbers occur on private land (about 45% of the population), especially in Namibia, and in protected areas (35%) such as Namib-Naukluft and Etosha (Namibia), Central Kgalagadi-Khutse Game Reserves and Gemsbok National Park and surrounds (Botswana) and Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (South Africa). All of these populations are stable or increasing.

The Gemsbok is of major economic value to the wildlife industry in southern Africa. It is a key trophy species on game farms and an important component of game-capture activities. In South Africa it is in great demand among farmers because of its trophy value. It has been introduced widely to areas outside its natural range, e.g., Gemsbok numbers have increased dramatically on bushveld farms in the north of the country, mainly due to introductions from Namibia. Kalahari Gemsbok National Park supports South Africa’s largest Gemsbok population.

Bibliography [top]

East, R. 1999. African Antelope Database 1999. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Grubb, P. 2005. Artiodactyla. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), pp. 637-722. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, USA.

Knight, M. In press. Oryx gazella. In: J. S. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa, Academic Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Citation: IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group 2008. Oryx gazella. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 August 2014.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please fill in the feedback form so that we can correct or extend the information provided