National Zoo announces deaths of two rare oryx

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009; 6:03 PM

The National Zoo announced Friday that two of its Scimitar-horned oryx, which are extinct in the wild, died this month.

On Oct. 24, a 17-year-old female died at the zoo's main campus. Two days earlier, the animal had been anesthetized for a routine health assessment. The examination proceeded normally, the zoo said. But during recovery, the animal became agitated. The next day, she had difficulty using her hind legs and died while being anesthetized again for an emergency follow up examination.

The zoo said preliminary necropsy results suggest the oryx died of "exertional myopathy," which can be related to over-exertion or agitation.

On Oct. 14, a 16-year-old male oryx died at the zoo's Conservation and Research Center, in Front Royal, Va., while being anesthetized for a routine reproductive assessment. The animal went into cardiac and respiratory arrest and could not be revived.

Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said no new techniques, drugs or practices were in use. She said it is always risky to anesthetize animals, and noted that these were older animals.

In the wild, Scimitar-horned oryx once lived in northern African countries of Egypt, Senegal, and Chad. The zoo now has one oryx remaining on exhibit and a herd of 13 surviving at the research center.

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