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16 Jun 2011: Species Behind Unicorn Legend
Back from Brink of Extinction, IUCN Says

The Arabian oryx, an antelope species with distinctive horns widely believed to be the source of the
Arabian oryx unicorn
David Mallon/IUCN
Arabian oryx
unicorn legend, has returned from the brink of extinction in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). On the group’s latest red list of threatened species, the Arabian oryx was upgraded from “endangered” to the less serious listing of “vulnerable,” an improvement the group attributes to captive breeding and successful re-introduction efforts. Found only on the Arabian Peninsula, and known locally as Al Maha, the species now numbers more than 1,000 individuals, IUCN says. The species nearly went extinct four decades ago, when it was believed that the last wild Arabian oryx had been shot in 1972, but aggressive recovery efforts have reversed its fate. The new IUCN list also reflects troubling trends, including eight species of amphibian now designated as “critically endangered.” They include Atelopus patazensis, a species of harlequin toad from Peru, and Dendrotriton chujorum, a dwarf species of salamander from Guatemala.

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