AL AIN- As part of its commitment to the conservation of arid Arabian land species and in line with its endangered species campaign, Al Ain Zoo profiled its conservation and breeding efforts pertaining to the Arabian Oryx while celebrating its successful reintroduction programmes in the United Arab Emirates.
Al Ain Zoo showcased the Arabian Oryx, while highlighting the efforts of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to save this critically endangered species from extinction in the seventies, when their numbers began to decline and reached 5- 7 individuals in the wild. The late Sheikh Zayed directed his attention towards saving this animal not only for its natural and environmental presence, but also for its cultural value in the UAE.
Commenting on the importance of the Arabian Oryx and the Zoo’s conservation efforts, Muna Al Dhaheri, Chief of Conservation and Education at Al Ain Zoo said,”In an effort to continue fulfilling the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Al Ain Zoo has adopted several conservation programmes highly focused on captive management and breeding, propagation, and reintroduction of endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx. As part of its conservation efforts, Al Ain Zoo took part in a reintroduction programme of the Arabian Oryx back in 2007, which was implemented by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi.”
Propagation programs of the Arabian Oryx, one of the Al Ain Zoo’s most successful programs, assisted in changing its classification on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, in a rather exceptional way, from extinct in the wild to near threatened.
“The Arabian Oryx is one of the animals that were made available at the zoo since its establishment. Today, Al Ain Zoo is home to a significant amount of healthy Arabian Oryx’s and was also successful in achieving a gender balance amongst the animal, which is usually difficult to accomplish when breeding animals in captivity.” She added
The Arabian Oryx is known for its ability to fully adapt to the desert environment and reduce its need for water consumption during the summer. When water is scarce, the Arabian Oryx can supply themselves with the water from the dew drops that form on the surface of plants. The Arabian Oryx is also known for its identical large horns, which can appear as one horn when seen from a profile, which is probably why the animal was once thought to only have one horn. Their horns are also used to fight predators. Their bright white colour serves as both an advantage and disadvantage. On one hand, the light colours help them cope with the summer heat, but on the other hand the black stripes that occur on the head and neck draw the attention of hunters and predators.
In addition to illegal hunting, urbanization, and the recent restriction of the desert areas (taking into consideration their need of spacious areas), plants and shade are the reasons behind the animals near extinction.
Al Ain Zoo is a member of the World Association for Zoo and Aquaria (WAZA) and is actively involved in several internationally coordinated conservation projects, working with other like-minded organisations such as Durrell Wildlife, Jersey, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the Species Survival Commission, San Diego Zoo, the Northern Rangelands Trust of Kenya and the Sahara Conservation Fund.