Sultanate — The natural habitat for Arabian oryx

MUSCAT: The Arabian oryx has settled in the plains of the Sultanate since the beginning of history due to the presence of pastures and wild breeding sites suited to its environment. In the pre-1970’s, a group of people went to the plains where the Arabian oryx habitat and hunted them with no deterrent or pity for the wildlife. There were no strict laws to prevent them from hunting at the time. In the early 1970s and fortunately, the international environmental conservation organizations at the time (Fiona and Flora International in the United Kingdom) in the early 1960s launched a campaign to capture the Arabian oryx from the wild as they predicted their extinction in case of non-intervention, which actually happened after nearly ten years.
The world campaign succeeded in capturing four heads of the Arabian oryx and sent them for reproduction with the world herd, which was collected from the Arab countries to a park in the United States of America.
In the last quarter of the seventies, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos ordered the initiation of a project to resettle the Arabian oryx in its native habitat in the desert and the plains of the Governorate of Al Wusta where the first batch of Arabian oryx arrived in 1980. At that time, Jeddat Al Harasis (Wadi Ja’aloni), was the site chosen for the project to resettle the Arabian oryx and the establishment of the “Arabian Oryx Sanctuary”.
There is no doubt that the selection of the site of the sanctuary is important as it contains plains and prairies that are appropriate to the nature of the Arabian oryx and its reproduction as the original and natural area of its spread in the Sultanate. After all these efforts, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was listed in the World Heritage List by the UNESCO. The Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was named the first natural reserve in Oman after the Royal Decree No 4/94.
In an interview with Oman News Agency (ONA), Dr Mansour bin Hamad al Jahdami, Director of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Arabian Oryx of the Office of Conservation of the Environment of the Royal Court, said that the Arabian oryx live in the desert and plains of the Sultanate since ancient times. It is one of the Arabian animals known to man in the peninsula and wrote poems about them, comparing its beauty to that of women and are spread throughout the Sultanate and several Arab Peninsula countries, such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. They are present in Egypt and Jordan as well.
As for the efforts of the Office of Environment Conservation to preserve the wildlife in the Sultanate, Dr Al Jahdami added that there are 600 Arabian Oryx, living within the breeding grounds and families in the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary with plans to take care of them according to a comprehensive programme and veterinary care of these herds in order to ensure that they continue to be in good health and to prepare them to be fit for living in the desert of the Sultanate for the stage of future release.
He further said that the Office of Environment Conservation has benefited from its efforts and its successful programmes, represented in the breeding of Arabian oryx in the Omani plains and deserts, after the first flock of Arabian oryx was released and grown in numbers and are roaming freely in the wilderness.
Dr Al Jahdami pointed out that the most important plans and objectives of the Office of the Conservation of the Environment in the future is to release the Arabian oryx captive in the large sanctuary to return to nature to live there safe without human obstacles. There are tourism programmes to attract tourists from inside and outside the Sultanate in tours to the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary and to watch wildlife in the Sultanate.
He said that there is currently a programme for groups and individuals visiting the sanctuary after obtaining permission to enter the sanctuary from the Office in Muscat to watch the wildlife there. — ONA