When Fari was born in 1974, every Arabian oryx birth was cause for celebration— the species was teetering on the brink of extinction. Native to Arabia and the Sinai Peninsula, the creamy white antelope with long, ridged horns was a prized trophy animal. By the 1960s, they were extinct in the wild—mostly due to hunters shooting them with high-powered rifles.
By the early 1970s, there were fewer than 200 Arabian oryx were left in the world—all in protected care. A breeding group was established at the Phoenix Zoo, part of what was called the “World Herd.” In 1972, a new breeding herd was started when five Arabian oryx came from Phoenix to the Wild Animal Park (now the Safari Park) as part of “Operation Oryx.” They reproduced so well that the Arabian oryx became San Diego Zoo Global’s first foray into returning a species to its original range.
Fari was in the historic first group of oryx moved to Shaumari Wildlife Reserve in Jordan in 1978. He settled in extremely well, and fathered many offspring, helping to rebuild the population. Since Fari’s return to his species’ homeland, more than 380 Arabian oryx have been born at the Safari Park, and 73 oryx have left the Park and moved to Jordan. In 2013, population was deemed stable enough that their classification was changed from Endangered to Vulnerable.