The Arabian oryx once roamed the Arabian peninsula in large herds covering thousands of kilometres as it followed the rains. But the animal, a species of antelope which has a white coat which helps it keep cool in the desert heat and large distinctive horns in both the male and female, was hunted to extinction in the wild nearly 40 years ago, although some survived in captivity. It is the most endangered of the oryx species.<br /><br />Sheikh Zayed wanted to make the Arabian oryx the centrepiece of Sir Bani Yas and now more than 400 roam the island, which is the world's second largest population of the animal. As part of the island's breeding and conservation programme some 98 oryx were released into a newly protected area near the border with Saudi Arabia last year. The animals can be viewed on a game drive on the island, where it is not unusual to see males locking antlers. In nature there are many more female oryx than male, but at Sir Bani Yas the ratio is close to 50/50, which does lead to the occasional fight among rivals.<br /><br />Although there are five species of oryx worldwide, Sir Bani Yas island is the only place in the world where four species can be seen together, including the scimitar-horned oryx, the beisa oryx and the gemsbok.<br /><br />The scimitar-horned oryx, which is from North and Central Africa, is also extinct in the wild. But a number of the oryx from Sir Bani Yas, named after their scimitar-shaped horns, are currently being reintroduced into Niger.