July 28, 2011 -- Horned, hooved and hopping through the grass, this scimitar-horned oryx calf is one of the newest additions to the National Zoo's Virginia facility. He is one of three calves born there this summer, critically increasing the numbers in captivity for a species that is already extinct in the wild.
Just budding now, this calf's horns -- believed to be the basis for the unicorn myth -- will one day grow to several feet long. These signature horns, a favorite of hunters, have played a role in both their extinction and now their survival. Several ranches in Texas have populations bred specifically for sport hunting.
The oryx was native to northern Africa, but habitat destruction, climate change and competition with domesticated herd animals sent the wild population into extinction. Now, the only surviving oryx populations live in zoos and private collections. Special breeding programs are in place to ensure genetic diversity.