The addax, Addax nasomaculatus, has nearly disappeared from the Sahara, where just a few isolated populations remain in Chad and Niger. The survival of the species is dependent upon conservation and reintroduction programmes, which several parks are involved in, including the Haute-Touche Animal Reserve.
Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla, Bovidae
~ 9 months, one baby
grasses, leaves, succulent plants
up to 28 years
1.25 m at the shoulder, 125 kg at the most
CR, critically endangered
Way of life
The addax live in small herds of around ten individuals, both male and female, and are led by the eldest male. A nomadic animal, they travel long distances across the desert in search of food. Guided by a highly developed sense of smell, they can detect even the slightest bit of rain from very far away (more than 100 km!).
In severe heat, the addax rests in basins that it digs in order to shelter from the sun and violent sandstorms, and then comes alive at night.
The addax can be recognised from its long spiralling horns, which can measure up to 1 metre and are found on both males and females, and its “fringe” of dark hairs on the forehead.
A nasal passage which acts as a cooler and a variable internal temperature protects their brain from severe heat and their very concentrated urine limits water loss. The addax can survive for several months without drinking: the dew and water contained in plants suffice. Well adapted to life in the desert, it has short and broad hooves which prevent it from sinking into the sand. Its white coat protects it from the sun’s reflection and becomes more grey-brown in the winter.
Representations of addax in Egyptian tombs indicate that it was domesticated in 2500 BC.
Today, the addax is critically endangered. With fewer than 500 individuals left in the wild, its survival depends on conservation operations in Chad and Niger, its last remaining strongholds. Excessive hunting remains the leading cause of the disappearance of the addax; drought and habitat pressures exacerbate the situation.
Several zoological parks belonging to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) are involved in the breeding of this antelope with a view to reintroducing it to its native environment. Some groups from these parks are regularly sent to reserves in Morocco and Tunisia where they will be reintroduced into the wild. The animals displayed at Haute-Touche successfully contribute to this conservation and reintroduction programme. This operation goes hand in hand with an aid and development programme for human populations in order to make the protection of the environment and fauna sustainable in the long term.