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UPDATE: SCIMITAR-HORNED ORYX BACK IN AFRICA By Kayla Zimmerhanzel

Meridian’s Gem of Nature was designed as a shelter to keep warm during cold nights. Inside the historic building’s archways is a Meridian State Park, tucked on top of a hill at the large fireplace that is currently inactive due to safety Top of the Hill Country, is one of the smaller state regulations. But you can sit at a picnic table for an parks in Texas. But its size makes it feel intimate and impressive view of the lake and hills. accessible, an ideal getaway to feel like you’ve The Bosque Hiking Trail encircles the gotten off the beaten path at least for a few lake and meanders past limestone cliffs and For information, carved-by-nature shelters studded by fossils hours. visit tpwd.texas.gov/ and clinging ferns. “These are natural limeThe park brings in about 36,000 visitors state-parks/meridi- stone overhangs that were used as shelter at a year, said Adrian Smith, superintendent an or call and park ranger. Part of its attraction is that one point,” Smith said. “They just bring so (254) 435-2536. the park was among 29 built by the Civilian much more beauty to the park.” Conservation Corps (CCC) in Texas. ComScreen shelters, cabins, campsites and RV pany 1827(V) of the CCC worked on the park in parking allow individual visitors and groups to expe1930s as part of the New Deal program during the rience the park for more than one day. But it’s small Great Recession. enough that within a few hours, you can hike or bike The Refectory structure boasts the CCC’s tradearound the lake, fish, and bird-watch. You might even UE SQ mark rustic masonry architecture and stonework. It spot a rare golden-cheeked warbler on your visit. BO

By Haley Smith

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Photos courtesy of Meridian State Park

In spring 2015, Cross Timbers Trails ran a cover story titled “Saving the Scimitars.” The story educated readers about the scimitar-horned oryx and what Fossil Rim Wildlife Center was doing to help repopulate the species that was native to Africa but extinct in the wild. Originally, conservation officials expected that the re-introduction process was going to happen in fall 2015, but due to the weather the animals were not transported to Chad, Africa. Finally, on March 16, 2016, the transportation process began for 25 oryx, a horned hooved mammal whose name refers to its long, curving horns. Adam Eyres, Fossil Rim’s hoofstock curator, said the oryx were sedated and placed in crates to be flown 3,000 kilometers from Abu Dhabi to Chad, Africa. Eyres said the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi is building the species’ “world herd” and over the last several years has bought 18 scimitars from Fossil Rim. “We’ve been involved with this project for about six years,” Eyres said in September when making a presen-

SOMERVELL tation to Fossil Rim about the reintroduction. “This is such an impressive project, and it’s great Fossil Rim is as involved as we are. A re-introduction of this nature hasn’t done, although there was one for Arabian oryx almost 40 years ago with a smaller number of animals.” Once the animals arrived in Chad, they were driven another roughly 80 kilometers. Then they were placed in a 100-acre release pen to get them acclimated to the weather and surroundings before being released into the wild. A few weeks before the oryx were released, GPS collars were put around their necks to track them. “We traveled eight days to do two-and-a-half hours of work,” Eyres said. “This remote location is ideal for re-introductions because it means that is also relatively human and livestock-free. Because they would cost so much to ship back, the animal crates were kept at the release site for storing items such as hay and feed.” On Aug. 14, the gates opened for the first group of oryx to be released in the wild in Chad. Since the release, none have died in the wild; in fact, a calf that one of the females conceived in Abu Dhabi has been born in Chad. In the middle of October, GPS collars were put on another group of 25 oryx with hopes of shipping out sometime in November. This next group is to be released into the wild sometime between January and February. Eyres said he hopes to be able to start shipping out more than 25 oryx in a group, but they are having difficulty with fitting them into the cargo planes. As far as the timeline of the project, Eyres said, “Everything depends on the weather in Africa.” He added, “So far so good, but it could be five to 10 years before we can call the mission a success.”

Chad workers with Adam Eyres (in yellow cap) of Fossil Rim re-introduced the oryx back into the wild. Photos courtesy of Fossil Rim

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Crosstimbers hornedornyx story  
Crosstimbers hornedornyx story  
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