Conservation Science

Scimitar-Horned Oryx

We are developing a disease risk analysis to forecast the outcomes of future wild releases of scimitar-horned oryx in Tunisia.

The scimitar-horned oryx has been brought back from the brink of extinction through a series of captive breeding and reintroduction programmes. The conservation genetics team run several projects where genetic data is being used to inform conservation management. We now aim to integrate this genetic data with health data to optimise an ongoing reintroduction programme in Chad and planned trial releases in Tunisia.

Infectious disease surveillance will be conducted in scimitar-horned oryx, sympatric wild ungulates and local livestock in Tunisia and Chad to provide a greater understanding of disease status, susceptibility and transmission. Novel molecular diagnostic techniques and next-generation sequencing will be used to identify a broad range of pathogens in blood. We will also trial these diagnostic tests on non-invasive samples. If successful, this would enable us to collect a greater number of samples, thus improving our ability to establish baseline levels of infection. It would also facilitate post-release monitoring. Health data will be combined with analysis of the immunogenetic status of the oryx and used to inform conservation management practices in Chad and a disease risk analysis ahead of future wild releases in Tunisia. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with Marwell Wildlife, the Pirbright Institute and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

For more information on the project, funding and partners please contact Stephanie Brien.

Image copyrights: Marie Petretto