By Ramola Talwar Badam
ABU DHABI // About 500 scimitar-horned oryx, extinct in the wild, will be gradually introduced back to their habitat in Chad through the efforts of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) in collaboration with the government of Chad.
The programme aims to return the oryx over a five-year period to an isolated natural reserve within Chad’s Ouadi Rime-Ouadi Achim game reserve, reported Wam, the state news agency.
The area was selected following extensive research to provide this antelope species with an optimal habitat and ensure increase in its population.
The scimitar-horned oryx, native to central and northern Africa, has been extinct in the wild for more than 15 years due to unregulated hunting, loss of habitat and lack of resources. It can only be found in protected reserves, with the UAE home to more than 3,000 – the world’s largest population.
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD’s secretary general, said the programme reflected the agency’s long-term commitment to preserving the endangered specie.
“This is a pioneering project given that the natural reserve will not rely on fenced and closed spaces,” Ms Al Mubarak said.
“The successful reintroduction programme will ensure this magnificent species has a safe, sustainable environment to roam freely and ultimately will help remove the scimitar-horned oryx from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of extinct in the wild species.”
EAD will manage the reintroduction programme and provide technical expertise, while Chad’s ministry of environment and fisheries will manage the reserve, the release area and enforce the wildlife conservation laws.
“The UAE Government is strongly committed to wildlife conservation and over the years has been successful in the preservation and protection of different endangered species,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler’s representative in the Western Region and EAD chairman.
“With support of the UAE leadership, EAD and the government of Chad’s efforts to reintroduce this beloved species into the wild, is the realisation of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s legacy in conserving wildlife and protecting the terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the UAE and across the world.”
The Sahara Conservation Fund will work on behalf of EAD to provide workforce, technical and scientific expertise, develop staff capability and monitor efforts.