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Endangered Saharan antelopes to be released in Southern Tunisia

Bonn, 10 March 1999 - A series of unusual loads are travelling through several parts of Europe today. From seven zoos in six European countries lorries are transporting captive-bred Antelopes to Ostende in Belgium. Tomorrow, the antelope - including fourteen Scimitar-horned Oryx and two Slender-horned Gazelles - will be flown in a Boeing 707 to the island of Djerba, Tunisia. From there, the animals will be taken to the Sidi Toui National Park in the desert region of Southern Tunisia.

These animals will form the ground stock for the recovery of wild populations of these endangered species. Initially they will be kept in fenced-in areas where they are expected to reproduce, according to Tunisian and international Antelope specialists. When their numbers have reached a sufficient level, they will be released back into the desert areas which constitute their home habitat. In the meantime, a plan to educate local populations to coexist with the Antelopes will be put into force.

All efforts are being made for a safe and comfortable journey of the animals. Two wardens and a veterinarian will accompany them during the transport from Ostende to their destination in Tunisia and, thereafter, two experts will survey the animals' one month quarantine and re-adaptation to their new surrounding. During this 5 month period they will train local staff of the National Park and run a scientific study to provide useful advice for future ventures of the same kind.

Executive Secretary Arnulf Müller-Helmbrecht of the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, who coordinated the activities from his office in Bonn, Germany, stated that it will be an even greater challenge for the world community to prove that it can be as effective in re-establishing wild animals and their ecosystems as men have been in their destruction. Also, he notes that the conservation of animal and plant species in their natural surroundings would be much cheaper and easier than their re-establishment after extinction. He expressed his admiration for the dedicated people who invested more than a year of intensive organisation and preparation to transfer this venture into action.

For more information please contact:

UNEP/CMS Secretariat,
Martin-Luther-King-Str. 8,
D-53175 Bonn,
Tel.: +49 228-815-2401; Fax: +49 228-815-2449
Web site:


Background Information

This venture is part of an overall Action Plan which the governments of 14 Sahelo-Saharan states, together with internationally reputed specialists, interalia from IUCN and WWF International have elaborated under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) in order to reestablish viable populations of six Antelope species in an area which is larger than the entire continent of Australia.

Actually the six Antelope species which were quite common in the region until approximately three decades ago have been almost completely eliminated through over-hunting, overstocking with live-stock, degradation of landscape and other human-related activities. It will be a challenge to revert this trend and to refill the region with the animals which are well-adapted to the climate and their surroundings and which could again become a major tool for economic development in the entire region. Actually Antelopes have proven to support the recovery of vegetation, whereas goats, sheep, livestock and camels have the reputation of destroying it. Antelopes could become an incentive for reestablishing tourism, including hunting tourism if the reestablishment of viable antelope populations proves to be successful in the future.

The names of the six Antelope species some of which are extinct in the wild and others have become extremely rare, are:


  • Oryx dammah
  • Addax nasomaculatus
  • Gazella cuvieri
  • Gazella dama
  • Gazella dorcas
  • Gazella leptoceros


  • Scimitar-horned Oryx
  • Addax
  • Cuvier's Gazelle
  • Dama Gazelle
  • Dorcas Gazelle
  • Slender-horned Gazelle


  • oryx algazelle
  • addax au nez tacheté
  • gazelle de Cuvier
  • gazelle dama
  • gazelle dorcas
  • gazelle leptocère


  • Säbelantilope
  • Mendesantilope
  • Atlasgazelle
  • Damagazelle
  • Dorkasgazelle
  • Dünengazelle

The Zoological Gardens which contribute to the release of captive bred animals are the Bratislava zoo in Slovakia, Dvur Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic, Paris zoo in France, La Palmire in France, Parco Faunistico Le Cornelle in Italy, Zoo Leipzig in Germany, Zoo Plankendael in the Flemish region of Belgium.

Belgium plays a major role in the current venture: The Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science) elaborated the Recovery Action Plan and the Flemish Environment Ministry provides the funds for the transport and release of the 16 Antelopes.

A number of Zoos in Europe have established a network for captive breeding activities, the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). Already in former years release of captive bred Antelopes had been organised, especially in Tunisia and Morocco, with very good success.

The Bonn Convention is a United Nations-based global convention aiming at the conservation and management of animal species which migrate over long distances thus crossing national borders. These species require the coordinated and concerted action of countries through which the animals migrate. The Secretariat of the Convention is located in Bonn, Germany. It is co-located with the Secretariats of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification. This year, on 23 June, the Convention celebrates the 20th anniversary of its signing on 23 June 1999. CMS provides coordinated conservation, inter alia for a large variety of migratory species including waterbirds (such as cranes, storks, swans, geese and flamingos), marine turtles, dolphins, small whales and bats. Approximately 10,000 species worldwide are migratory.

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