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Al Saleel Natural Park: A safe home to Oman’s Arabian gazelle

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We have usually seen Arab deer in the documentaries shown on television and wildlife books and magazines, but we rarely see them in the prairies and in their natural habitats in which they live.

In addition to its social and economic importance, the gazelle has literary value for Arabs in particular. The Arabs describe it as elegant, beautiful and intelligent. It had an exceptional presence for hundreds of years in the Arabian Peninsula. Poets were inspired, and society still inherits the names of deer. Names such as: “Al Afra”, “Al Reem” and “Al Anoud” are nothing but the pride of the Arabs in the names of this animal. It should also be noted here that there are some places named after deer, and it is necessary to mention here the area of “Saih Al Dhabi”, which is one of the parts of the Wilayat of Al Amerat in the Governorate of Muscat.

Deer are distinguished by their black eyes, soft body, which helps them to hide, and strong sense of smell, which helps them detect who is stalking them.

During the past decades, deer were subjected to over-hunting, and then their numbers began to decrease dramatically, and this has made experts in the field of nature conservation think about finding a mechanism to limit the decline in their numbers. After a series of discussions and meetings between various experts in the field of nature conservation, it was proposed to establish a nature reserve to conserve these wild species and contribute to their reproduction in their natural environments. The result was the establishment of the Al Saleel National Park Reserve in 1997.

Al Saleel National Park, which has an area of 220 square kilometres, is in the Wilayat of Al Kamil W’al Wafi bordered to the north by a mountain range extending up to the Sea of Oman, a vast plain extending to Gehwan mountain within Gehwan Natural Reserve to the east and Wadi Al Bathaa and Rimal Al Sharqiya on the southern side.

This reserve has variegated physical natural components that gives it unique importance and hue. The presence of the reserve in the flooding fan of Wadi Bani Khalid has an effect on the soil of the region and therefore on the vegetation cover therein. Moreover, the mountain range of the western Hajar Mountains extend in the northern part of the reserve where there are formations that include fossils indicating that the region used to be in shallow waters millions of years ago. On the other side, plains form large areas of the reserve.

The reserve has unique biodiversity in the ecological unit of the inner eastern plain. It has a wide spread of Al Samar (umbrella thorn acacia). The reserve contains more than 100 species of wild plants and trees such as; Al Salam (Acacia ehrenbergiana), Al Sidr (Thorn Jujube), Al Kanab (Blepharis ciliaris), Al Sarh (Maerua crassifolia) and other plants and trees.

The statistics issued by the Environment Authority said that around 57 species of birds have been recorded, including migratory and endemic birds. The birds in the reserve included bulbul, hoopoe, wild dove, sparrow, great grey shrike, pterocles, bald vulture and steppe eagle.

Moreover, the reserve has more than eight types of animals such as, Arabian Gazelle (Gazella Gazella), Arabian Ibex (Hemitragus jayakari), Red Fox (Vulpes), Wilde Rabbit (Lepus capensis) and many small mammals. As for reptiles, eight types of reptiles were recorded in the reserve such as Sinai agama, Egyptian spiny and tailed lizard along with 166 insects.

The northern part of the reserve has ancient tombs of 3,000 years BC scattered in the plain and on the hilltops and mountain ranges. These tombs are circular, covered with domes of stones. These tombs extensively indicate the existence of old settlements that settled in the area or adjacent areas.

This reserve provides the opportunity to get to know this cute animal up close and their way of life. “Thanks to the efforts made by the management of the reserve represented by the observers of wildlife, and thanks to the cooperation of the local people, the poaching operations targeting the Arabian gazelle and the rest of the mammals living within the area of this reserve have diminished,” an environmentalist asserted.

Visitors are happy to see all these species live in their environment in the form of large herds, which confirms that the establishment of the nature reserve has achieved its goals set for more than twenty years.

To visit this nature reserve, the visitor is required to obtain an official permit from the Environment Agency. Obtaining permits to enter the reserve comes within the framework of the regulation pursued by the management of the reserve according to the requirements approved by the competent authorities.

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