By Bridget Kessler
Green Right Now
The desert-dwelling addax is an antelope found in small pockets in North Africa, in Mauritania, Chad and Nigeria. The species (Addax nasomaculatus) was first described by the French zoologist Henri de Blainville in 1816.
Addax have a distinct tuft of dark-brown hair on their heads, and both adult females and males have long, twisted horns which are on average about 72 cm long.
They are well known for their astounding adaptations to living in an extremely harsh climate; for example, they have splayed hooves and short legs to allow them to travel on sand. Addax are also called white antelopes because, while their fur is grayish-brown in the winter, it gradually fades to white for the summertime to reflect heat.
The addax is primarily active at night due to the harsh heat of the Sahara. During the daytime, addaxes sometimes dig "beds" in the sand to shade themselves from the sun, and for protection during sandstorms. They form nomadic herds which spend most of their time wandering in search of food, mainly of grasses, shrubs and herbs.
Addax are so well suited to the desert that they are able to get all the water they need from the plants that they eat.
Addax are critically endangered, with fewer than 300 estimated to be left in the wild. The main cause for their decline is hunting, as their short legs make them easy targets, but they've also struggled from drought, desertification, and habitat loss due to agriculture. Unfortunately, many large reserves in several North African countries have stopped sheltering them.
In 2007, about 550 addax were re-introduced in Morocco and Tunisia into fenced areas, where they have legal protection. Hunting of addax is also prohibited in Algeria, Libya and Egypt. There are at least 1,600 captive individuals in European and North American zoos and ranches, with breeding programs in North America, Japan and Australia.
Facts about addax:
- Addax herds used to have as many as 20 individuals, now there are only sightings of 4-5 member groups
- Addax live an average of 19 years in the wild, and 25 years in captivity
- Male addax reach sexual maturity at age 3, while females mature by only one and a half years
- Baby addax weigh only about 5.7 kilograms or 12.5 pounds.
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