Some 200 kilometers away from the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi city, 14 Arabian Oryx have been given another chance at life in the wild.
Once on the verge of extinction, the species will now be able to roam one of the largest sand deserts in the world – the Empty Quarter – and guests at the Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara will have the opportunity to appreciate and learn about the Arabian Peninsula’s most iconic species in its natural habitat.
The Oryx were released into the Qasr Al Sarab Protected Area, as part of the long-running Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme, led by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency in the presence of Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of Abu Dhabi’s Environmental Agency.
The Arabian Oryx is said to have inspired the legend of the unicorn, however, the battle that the Oryx has waged against extinction is legend itself. The animal had long been a coveted trophy for hunters until it eventually became extinct in the wild. However, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a keen environmentalist, initiated a captive breeding programme to ensure the survival of this species in the 1960s.
On this occasion, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said “Under the directives and continued support of the country’s visionary leadership, the UAE has succeeded in transforming ecologically distinctive areas into internationally recognised protected ones. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has 6 marine and 13 terrestrial sites, making up 13% and 15.4% of the Emirate’s area respectively, which are supporting some of the most critical habitats and significant species populations. The release of the Arabian Oryx . . . is a key example of how the UAE has placed a high priority on the importance of boosting and preserving biodiversity.”
Noura Al Kaabi observed: “The Arabian Oryx is not only important environmentally to the region, but also culturally. It held high value during past civilizations on the Arabian Peninsula and has featured prominently in Arab literature, art and poetry. It was revered not just for its physical beauty but for its ability to adapt very well to the desert environment, as well as for its strength and courage. It is a moment of pride for the whole nation to see the late Sheikh Zayed’s aspirations for the Arabian Oryx become a reality.”
The UAE is currently home to over 10,000 Arabian Oryx, of which 5,000 are in Abu Dhabi; consequently the status of the species has been down-listed from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The UAE’s conservation efforts on behalf of the oryx extend globally. Programmes to reintroduced the species into protected areas in Oman and Jordan are already underway and schemes that will enabled a number of other Arab countries to come together under a unified conservation strategy, committing them to intensifying efforts to protect the Arabian Oryx, are in process