Friday, August 3, 2012

Call to Protect the Arabian Oryx from Sheep/Goat Disease

A captive herd of Arabian oryx

The magnificent Arabian oryx has made a tremendous comeback after several years through captive breeding and reintroduction efforts. Before this successful recovery, the population of this graceful antelope was decimated followed by years of hunting which eventually drove it to extinction in the wild by 1972. But now, there is a new threat that has got conservationists concerned about the oryx's future. It is a deadly disease called peste de petits ruminants (PPR), a highly contagious virus that generally affects sheep and goats. Known as 'goat plague', it takes place across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula. It is said that the oryx are also prone to the malady, leading to concerns that it could spread from the United Arab Emirates' large goat population. Although there is a vaccine against the disease, it has been found to be effective on sheep and goats but it is not known whether it would be effective on the oryx. For this reason, research on determining the vaccine's correct levels is being conducted at the Wadi Al Safa Wildlife Center in Dubai. During the trial, twelve oryx were vaccinated and three were kept as control animals. After one month, five out of the twelve vaccinated oryx were given a booster dose. The antelopes were regularly tested for a year to check the levels of PPR's antibodies in their blood, a process that allows the capability of the vaccine to be measured. According to Declan O'Donovan, director of wildlife services at Wadi Al Safa, the data collected is still being analyzed and recommendations from the results would be published in a scientific journal.
Effects of PPR in a sheep: Inflammation and erosion of the mouth

I hope that the researchers conducting the study of the vaccine's effects would help in the conservation of the Arabian oryx. This strikingly graceful antelope was once extinct in the wild forty years ago due to limitless hunting throughout the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Captive breeding and reintroduction programs have helped reboost its population in its former habitat. But now, there is news about a new form of danger that is threatening to put the oryx in a would-be jeopardy: PPR. The research of this deadly virus is currently pending at Dubai's Wadi Al Safa Wildlife Center. The center has also covered other subjects since it opened in 1998. These include foot-and-mouth disease, illnesses that affect feral cats and gazelles, and the distribution of the mountain gazelle. I also hope that this research will help in the conservation of other animals that share the habitat with the oryx. Food-and-mouth disease are known to infect antelopes such as mountain and goitered gazelles. The transmission of the disease can be done in number of ways, including close contact between animals. This is why I believe it is extremely crucial to combat this disease along with PPR to help protect the wildlife of the Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, and Africa. In Africa, fighting PPR would help tremendously in the conservation of the Arabian oryx's relative the scimitar-horned oryx which has been labeled as "extinct in the wild" since 2000. With only a handful of these antelopes currently being held in a few reserves located in Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia, the impact of PPR could affect their last remaining captive populations their native homeland. The time is upon us to help save and protect both the Arabian and the scimitar-horned oryx from any form of threat at all costs.

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