Arabian oryx shankar s flickr

We Save Unicorns

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A couple of years ago, we were at a William & Mary career fair, and we met a student who wanted to come work for us because, in her words, "I'd like to save the animals." I love that a lot of our projects involve saving the world with software, and that we're fortunate enough to partner up with some great conservation non-profits and help them meet their goals.
And now we can say we helped to save the unicorns.
Last week we were under the cone of silence supporting the July 16 data release for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One of the most picked-up stories was about the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), and how conservation efforts have worked to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. I look at the Red List data a lot - both on the web and in the Species Information Service Toolkit ("SIS"), used to compile the species assessments. I'm not a biologist, so I confess that I don't always find the data itself to be as exciting as some. That's 100% my loss. So it's especially wonderful to read about how conservation efforts can bring about great success, and pull a real species - and its inspiring mythical counterpart - out of extinction.
Oryx have been tied to the unicorn myth since the 15th century, when Dutch artist Erhard Reuwich published woodcuts of a crocodile, camel and unicorn in his travel book (compiled while in a pilgrimage). Apparently, if you squint at an Oryx, if it's in profile and far away, it looks like a unicorn. I'm happy to know that, if I want, I can hop a plane and go see one.
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