The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), as part of its commitment to nature and wildlife, has marks World Wildlife Day by taking a significant step forward in its program to release native species to their ancestral homes amid the nature reserves of north-west Saudi Arabia.
Twenty Arabian oryx, 50 sand gazelles and 10 Nubian ibex arrived at pre-release enclosures in AlUla’s Sharaan Nature Reserve. The animals came from the King Khaled Wildlife Research Center, which operates north of Riyadh as a branch of the National Center for Wildlife. After a period of adjustment to these new environs, the animals will be released into the Sharaan reserve on 17 March.
Amr Al Madani, CEO, Royal Commission for AlUla, said: “We are unleashing the power of nature’s balance. By sustaining ecosystems and wildlife – creating nature reserves that protect and conserve biodiversity, restoring and enhancing habitats and ecosystems, and reintroducing indigenous species of flora and fauna – our teams have enabled the release of these animals. The program is a living example of RCU’s commitment to our sustainability goals as well as those of the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.”
Arabian oryx, sand gazelles and Nubian ibex will return to the wild this month
In line with IUCN guidelines stating that monitoring is essential to a reintroduction program, RCU will monitor the newly released animals by using satellite tracking collars, camera trapping and SMART tools.
- Satellite collars are the most suitable method for monitoring RCU’s large reserves. Collars provide near real-time GPS animal tracking, enabling rangers (who are employed from local communities) and researchers to monitor survival, breeding, habitat use, foraging, interactions with other species, and wildlife movements.
- Camera trapping is a useful tool for sighting species in carefully chosen locations – for example, water points and corridors to provide information on how animals are using the habitat.
- SMART is a set of software and analysis tools to support rangers and researchers in data collection and analysis, thereby improving the effectiveness of protected area management and species conservation.
Ahmed Almalki, RCU’s Director of Nature Reserves, said: “Each step forward in the release program is a step forward for our wider conservation vision to restore landscapes and reintroduce native species. By bringing back native species, we bring back balance. The release programme will continue to grow in the years to come as we move towards our long-term goal of reintroducing 12 native species by 2035.”
Release programme exemplifies World Wildlife Day theme for 2022 of ‘Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration’
The Sharaan Nature Reserve is located in the eastern part of AlUla County. In all RCU is creating six reserves spanning some 12,4002 km – more than half the area of AlUla County. RCU is collaborating with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to develop a Protected Area Network plan for the reserves to ensure sustainable adaptive management, enable movement of species and enhance climate change resilience.
World Wildlife Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013. The UN chose 3 March because that was the day of signature for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. The RCU animal release programme reflects the 2022 theme for World Wildlife Day, “Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration”.