The Addax (Addax nasomaculatus) is an antelope species endemic to the Sahara desert, one of the hottest environments on earth. The species home range historically spanned several countries across the region including Sudan, Egypt, Chad, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Western Sahara, Morrocco, and Mauritania. However, their population has dramatically decreased due to poaching, habitat loss, oil drilling, and civil wars.

According to the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF), a non-governmental organization, which has been monitoring the species from 2004, there are might be 100 or less individuals surviving in the wild mainly in the Termit and Tin-Toumma National Nature Reserve in Niger. A few animals are also known to exisit in their natural habitat in the Eguey Bodele region in Chad. Although the species is declining in the wild, over 2,000 Addax antelopes survive in zoos, private natural reserves,  and captive breeding centers around the world. Conservationists are most concerned with re-establishing a viable population of Addax back to the wild where it became locally extinct.

The Addax is categorized as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Conserving the antelope is a priority of the IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. It offers technical and financial support to SCF and its partners to save not only the Addax but among other Sahara desert endemics that are endangered such as the Scimitar-horned oryx (extinct in the wild), the Dama gazelle, Saharan Cheetah, and the North African ostrich   .  Together, they have drafted an action plan that entails re-establishing the number of Addax to 500 in the wild in the long-term.

The project has achieved success in Chad. About 90 Addax antelopes have been reintroduced to their former habitats including the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve and the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Niger also stepped up in an effort to protect the species remaining in the Termit and Tin-Toumma National Nature Reserve. The 86, protected area was created in 2012 given that it was thought to harbor fewer than 100, which is almost the highest number of Addax surving in the wild.  Protecting the reserve has been challenging due to the Libyan political crisis of 2011 and oil drilling in the reserve. Field surveys that was conducted by SCF in 2016 identified only foot prints of 25 adults and three animals spotted. This indicated that there was serious distrubance of the animals. In order to reduce stress on the antelopes and protect their habitats, over 50,000 of the protected area have exclusively put aside away from the oil drilling areas.

In June 2019, the Niger government reclassified the reserve’s boundaries, excluding about 50,000 square kilometers in the eastern part of the reserve to avoid overlapping with oil concession blocks.

Physical appearance

Addax is among the wild animals that change color according to seasons. During summer, the animal has a white or pale brown coat which turns into gray and dark brown in winter. Both male and female grow short manes and spiral horns. The horns can reach up to 70-85 and 55-80 centimeters long respectively. Males are relatively larger weighing between 60-125 kg and measuring 33-38 inches at shoulder height. Females can weigh 60-90 kg. Males and females have similar facial features with brown, black patches that curve into letter X below the eyes.

Habitat and ecology

The Addax is endemic to the Sahara desert where the animal lives in a variety of environments especially where there’s perennial vegetation for grazing. As an herbivore, it feeds on a variety of desert grasses and shrubs including cornulaca monacantha. This plant is succulent and rich in moisture which allows their bodies to store water for several days. The animals mostly graze at night and rest during day in herds of 5-20 individuals led by an alpha male. Females give birth to one calf per year.