Mirage-like, the oryx materialized out of the desiccated landscape of Awash National Park.
For my money, the oryx is the smartest turned-out antelope on the planet. I saw my first ones in Namibia in 2016, where they are the species Oryx gazella, also called gemsbok, and are to be found standing under every tree:
But here in Ethiopia they are a different species, Oryx Beisa, and they are endangered:
You can see the difference: the tail is only black at the end, no black patch on the rump, and less black on the belly and legs too. (The rest of these photos are all of this Ethiopian species.)
Both sexes have those amazing horns, for which they have been hunted almost to extinction:
The mother goes off alone to give birth, and the young can run immediately. Their black markings do not appear for several weeks, when they rejoin the main herd. These are still very young, but they already have tiny horns.
Oryx beisa is now extinct in much of its former range, and the remaining 12,000 or so are found only in Ethiopia, and parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Like all oryxes, they are adapted to an arid environment and can go days without drinking. In addition to the thorny scrub plants, they seek out thick-leaved plants, wild melons, roots and tubers. They feed in early morning or late afternoon, when the dew forms and the plants can increase their water content by up to 40% compared to midday.
I came across a lovely folk tale about how the oryx got its horns, and its elegant black-and-white markings:
Next time I’ll show you what happened to the loser in this tale..