pMarch 30, 2012/p
pemHouston Chronicle /em /p
pBy Tony Freemantle/p
pIts horns, sometimes up to 4 feet long, arc gracefully over its back, almost reaching its hindquarters when it lifts its head to sniff the wind. Vast herds of them once roamed the semi-arid plains of North Africa and the Sahel, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea./p
pIt was named in an inscription on the Egyptian tomb of Sabu of Sakkarah nearly 23 centuries ago, and is thought to be the inspirational template for the unicorn./p
pIn 2000, after finally succumbing to hunting, loss of habitat, climate change and war, the scimitar-horned oryx was declared extinct in the wild./p
pBut not in Texas, where it has returned from the brink and now thrives in greater numbers than anywhere on Earth, and where it finds itself at the center of a modern, protracted new battle for survival./p
pThat battle is lost next Wednesday, Texas ranchers fear, when the scimitar-horned oryx and two of its African cousins – the addax and the dama gazelle – officially receive full protection under the Endangered Species Act./p
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