The IUCN says the antelope’s reintroduction to the wild is the most successful effort for any species once classified as extinct

Source: Guardian / Press Association  Thursday 16 June 2011 [excerpts]

An antelope species, widely believed to be the source of the unicorn legend and hunted to extinction in the wild, has been brought back from the brink, conservationists said today as they unveiled the latest update on threatened species.

It is thought the last wild Arabian oryx was shot in 1972, but a successful captive breeding programme and reintroduction efforts mean its population now stands at 1,000 in its wild home of the Arabian peninsula.

It has moved from “endangered” to the less-serious category of “vulnerable” in the latest red list of threatened species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said.

It is the first time a species that was once classified as extinct in the wild has improved its fortunes to such an extent, the IUCN said.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, director general of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, said: “To have brought the Arabian oryx back from the brink of extinction is a major feat and a true conservation success story, one which we hope will be repeated many times over for other threatened species.

“It is a classic example of how data from the IUCN red list can feed into on-the-ground conservation action to deliver tangible and successful results.” © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011