This intriguing creature is one of the world’s rarest mammals. Unfortunately, due to relentless hunting for food and leather by humans, there may be fewer than 300 Addax remaining in the wild – and that number is decreasing. This is one of a number of species where the numbers in captivity throughout the world exceed the number living in the wild.
Addax are under great threat in the wild. They are classed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN ‘red list’). They used to be found in all countries sharing the Sahara Desert but, due to hunting and loss of habitat, the only known population remains in the Termit/Tin Toumma region of Niger.
Breeding programs in captivity, such as at Werribee Open Range Zoo, are aiming to prevent the extinction of this species. As a participating member of the Addax breeding program, WORZ follows the Australasian Species Coordinator’s recommendations for breeding these animals to manage captive numbers and ensure high genetic diversity of the population. The breeding groups are selected using the recommendations of the species co-ordinator for this species. Currently, there are two separate breeding groups of Addax at Werribee Open Range Zoo.
Addax are nocturnal and crepuscular (active at twilight or just before sunrise). They rest during the heat of the day.
They are typically found in sandy and stony regions of the Sahara Desert – especially in protected dune regions, where motorised transport has difficulty traversing. Addax have broad, flat hooves with flat soles that prevent them from sinking into the desert sand.
Addax herds typically consist of five to 20 individuals, led by one dominant male. Female herd members establish their own dominance hierarchy, with the oldest individuals achieving the highest rank. It should be noted that this group structure is not standard any more due to their near extinction in the wild. Most Addax now travel in small clusters of only a few individuals.
- These antelope are one of the few species where male and females have horns of the same size
- Their coat colour changes from dark greyish-brown in winter to white in the summer: an efficient method of maintaining body temperature
- Addax will dig depressions in the sand in which to rest. These are often located in the shade of boulders for protection from the wind and sun
- Often considered the most-well adapted antelope to a desert environment, Addax rarely need to drink since they are able to get most of the water they need from the plants they eat