After 60 years, native gazelles return to Arabia

Fri, 2021-02-26 22:48

MAKKAH: After a 60 year absence, the Arabian oryx and rhim gazelle have now returned to Rawdat Attinhat at the King Abdul Aziz Royal Reserve, north of the Kingdom’s capital city Riyadh.

In close cooperation between the National Center for Wildlife Development and King Abdul Aziz Royal Reserve, five Arabian oryx and 30 rhim gazelles, both endangered species, have been released into one of the largest unfenced conservation parks in the Kingdom.

Arabian oryx once thrived in the region, but disappeared from the central region of the peninsula 60 years ago.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, plans to release animals from the endangered list will be closely monitored and will work with more partners, according to the criteria and work plan of this ambitious national project, to revive wildlife in reserves and parks.

Last November, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman highlighted in a speech to the Shoura Council that conservation in the Kingdom has risen 14 percent in the past three years from just 4 percent. This comes as part of the national project to protect the environment and heritage according to the principles of sustainable development.

The program aims to strengthen environmental balance, and protect the Kingdom’s natural assets that have environmental, economic and cultural importance.

The spokesman for the Special Forces for Environmental Security said that its task is to protect wildlife in all locations, and called on all residents to refrain from hunting wild animals, adding that violators will be referred to the authorities and fined.

Ahmed Al-Bouq, the environmental advisor at the National Center for Wildlife Development supervising the national launch program, told Arab News: “King Abdul Aziz Reserve has a number of parks including Rawdat Attinhat, Rawdat Nourah, and Al-Khafs. These are considered wonderful natural habitats for endangered species in the Kingdom. These parks include acacia, sidra, and thistle trees, in addition to pastoral plants like cucumber, and they have an integrated ecosystem.”

Al-Bouq noted that the center has a program, the National Program to Relaunch and Resettle in Reserves and National Parks, which is a comprehensive, ambitious, and dedicated plan for all national parks in collaboration with supervising agencies.

He noted that by 2030, the National Center for Wildlife Development intends to release animals into the wild in 100 locations, including more gazelles and oryx, Alpine ibexes, ostriches, Houbara bustard birds, and other local species.

“The main objective of this program is to revive the wildlife of animals that either became extinct or are about to go extinct, based on international regulations and criteria,” Al-Bouq said.

He added: “A while ago we arranged to release more than 30 falcons, including free hawks, Shaheen, and Al-Wakra, after rehabilitating them in collaboration with the Saudi Falcons Club.”

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