This large antelope with its striking appearance of long horns and distinct colouration is the national animal of Namibia. The Oryx, also known as the Gemsbok, occurs in the more arid regions throughout the African continent where it feeds on course grasses and thorny shrubs – often during the morning and late afternoon.
Having successfully adapted to harsh conditions where scarce water and intense heat are the norm, its no surprise that this large mammal has solidified itself as the country’s national animal. The Oryx was chosen as Namibia’s national animal due to its courage, elegance and pride – with the national coat of arms bearing this unmistakable dweller of the desert.
Oryx are considered by some to be the most handsome and striking antelope species. Striped like a race car and possessing two horns much like those of the mythical unicorn, it is the unique social structure of this species that sets it apart from others. These animals form mixed herds of both females and males, unlike other antelope which typically employ the ‘harem’ system of one male controlling a group of females. Another interesting fact is that both sexes of the species have horns, although the male’s horns are marginally shorter and thicker.
The way in which Oryx conserve water is fascinating. Having to consume up to 3 liters of water per 100kg of body weight per day, they have successfully evolved to to extract water from fruit and vegetables such as the Tsamma melon to maximize their water intake, as well as concentrating their urine to decrease water output. These animals are perhaps also best known for their ability to wander far and wide when food and water is scarce, making them the quintessential Namibian animal