Saturday, December 21, 2013

U.S Donates Forty Arabian Oryx to the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi

A herd of Arabian oryx

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) has recently received a donation of forty Arabian oryx from the U.S, which will be part of its ongoing Arabian Oryx Breeding Program under the Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project. The animals, which recently arrived in Abu Dhabi, consist of 15 males and 25 females. They have been transported to the Delaika Conservation and Breeding Facility in the Al Khanza area in the southern part of the emirate, where they will breed with the oryx that are native there and currently living in that facility. The goal of bringing the oryx into the facility serves as a continuation of the facility's breeding program, and is also directed at intensifying the gene pool for the oryx in Abu Dhabi to produce more healthy, diverse, and strong population. The purpose of the EAD to bring these forty oryx for breeding is to guarantee the species' genetic diversity and population sustainability for future generations. According to executive director Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri of EAD's Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, the agency will now further protect the population from negative impacts of longstanding inbreeding. Once the process is successful, the agency strives to release a number of these oryx into the wild.
Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan played a crucial role in saving the Arabian oryx from the brink of extinction.  

I'm very proud to see the progress being made by the Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project, which has over the past few years played a tremendous role in keeping the Arabian oryx population sustainable. The history of this success story dates back to the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose action played a crucial role in conserving the oryx and saving it from extinction after noticing a dire decline in population. Following in his legacy, the United Arab Emirates have the largest population of Arabian oryx in the world. The Arabian Oryx Breeding and Reintroduction Project, which is comprised of breeding and release programs, has the approval and support of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E Armed Forces. The Delaika Conservation and Breeding Facility, on the other hand, was formed by the EAD in 2010. It covers an area of 3.5 million square meters, and is home to 5,000 animals consisting of not just the oryx but also mountain and sand gazelles. The EAD has managed a number of oryx releases in Abu Dhabi with 98 animals released into the Arabian Oryx Protected Area in Umm Al Zamool in 2007, and 87 in 2010. The agency's conservation efforts resulted in Abu Dhabi becoming a home to 3,000 oryx today, increasing the oryx population in U.A.E to 4,000. In addition to managing oryx releases in the U.A.E, the EAD has also conducted a number of releases in Wadi Rum in Jordan by collaborating with Al Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority during 2010-2012.
A scimitar-horned oryx in the Werribee Open Zoo in Australia. The scimitar-horned oryx, unlike the Arabian oryx, is still considered "extinct in the wild" since 2000 and thrives mainly in captivity as of now. 

The following facts above indicate that the U.A.E have, for many years, played a crucial role in helping revive the Arabian oryx population in the world through breeding and releasing the animals into the wild. This two-step process is also conducted through joint collaboration with countries such as the U.S and a few Arab countries. The Arabian oryx is one of the most outstanding examples of global conservation in bringing a wild animal back from the brink of extinction. However, the situation is not the same with its relative the scimitar-horned oryx which has been labeled as "Extinct in the Wild" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2000. Today, the global population of scimitar-horned oryx consists of captive individuals in zoological facilities and fenced-in protected areas outside their historical range. These individuals number somewhere in thousands, and have never been reintroduced into the wild like their Arabian counterparts. Although there is a global captive breeding program for this species, it is not known how it is being carried out in order to ensure the survival of the scimitar-horned oryx. My main concern is how the captive individuals are being managed. What will anyone involved in the conservation of the scimitar-horned oryx do if any of the captive populations exceed the carrying capacity of whatever facility they are being held in? How will they prevent the negative impacts of inbreeding within a captive population? These are the two questions conservationists, researchers, and anybody involved in the scimitar-horned oryx conservation should consider when conducting their program. Furthermore, they should also consider the possibilities of reintroducing the scimitar-horned oryx back in its historical range in an effort to repopulate the species in its natural habitat.

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