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AlUla releases 80 oryx, gazelles, ibex into native Saudi habitat to mark Wildlife Day

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The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) released 20 Arabian oryx, 50 sand gazelles and 10 Nubian ibex into their native habitat in the nature reserves of northwestern Saudi Arabia to mark World Wildlife Day, the RCU said in a statement released early Thursday.

The animals came from the King Khaled Wildlife Research Center, which operates north of Riyadh as a branch of the National Center for Wildlife. After a period of adjustment to these new environs, the animals will be released into the Sharaan reserve on March 17.

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The Nubian ibex, shown in a file photo,  is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
The Nubian ibex, shown in a file photo, is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

World Wildlife Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, choosing March 3 because that way the day of signature for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1973.

“Each step forward in the release program is a step forward for our wider conservation vision to restore landscapes and reintroduce native species,” RCU director of nature reserves Ahmed al-Malki said.

The sand gazelle, shown in a file photo,  is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
The sand gazelle, shown in a file photo, is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

“By bringing back native species, we bring back balance. The release program will continue to grow in the years to come as we move towards our long-term goal of reintroducing 12 native species by 2035.”

Located in the eastern part of the AlUla County, the Sharaan Reserve has been designed to protect indigenous animal species and conserve biodiversity and is one of six nature reserves created by the RCU.

In line with the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UCN), the RCU will monitor the newly released animals in as part of their thorough reintroduction program by using satellite tracking collars, camera trapping and software analysis tools.

Sharaan is one of six nature reserves that the Royal Commission for AlUla is creating across some 12,400 sq km of north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
Sharaan is one of six nature reserves that the Royal Commission for AlUla is creating across some 12,400 sq km of north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Under this year’s theme ‘Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration,’ The RCU has collaborated with the IUCN to develop a Protected Area Network plan for the reserves to ensure sustainable adaptive management, enable the movement of species and enhance climate change resilience, the statement revealed.

“We are unleashing the power of nature’s balance. By sustaining ecosystems and wildlife – creating nature reserves that protect and conserve biodiversity, restoring and enhancing habitats and ecosystems, and reintroducing indigenous species of flora and fauna – our teams have enabled the release of these animals,” RCU CEO Amr al-Madani said.

The Arabian oryx, shown in a file photo, is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
The Arabian oryx, shown in a file photo, is being reintroduced to its native habitat in AlUla, north-west Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Satellite collars are the most suitable method for monitoring across RCU’s large reserves, according to the RCU statement, as they provide real-time GPS tracking of the animals, enabling rangers employed from local communities in the area and researchers to monitor survival, movement, breeding, foraging, habitat use and interactions with other species.

Camera tapping will be used to monitor how the animals navigate the habitat by providing information on sightings at different locations such as corridors and water points.

The set of software and analysis tools will support the rangers and researchers involved with data collection to analyze their behavior and improve protected area management and species conservation.

The RCU was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia.

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