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EAD completes scientific assessment of the genetic diversity of sand gazelle population in Abu Dhabi forests

posted on 19/07/2016: 1914 views

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, EAD, has completed the implementation of a pioneer project that aimed at assessing the genetic diversity of the sand gazelle population in EAD managed forests. This is considered the first of its kind on global scale for this particular species within its natural and historic distribution of this antelope in the Arabian Peninsula.

The project assessed the genetic diversity and verified any current or future threats to genetic characteristics resulting from inbreeding and crossbreeding with other species, which may affect the physiological and morphological characteristics and may lead to genetic drifting and mutations that threaten the survival of this culturally important species.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary-General of EAD said, "EAD, as the competent authority mandated for managing the forests of Abu Dhabi, has sought to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for forestry in the emirate. This strategy includes a number of policies and principles tailored to enhance environmental sustainability in our forests, a heritage that was established in Abu Dhabi in the mid-sixties in realisation of the vision of the founder of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

"EAD's efforts in forest sustainability are not limited to sustaining native vegetation/flora and management of invaluable groundwater resources, but also include scientific management of wildlife populations that are using Abu Dhabi forests as a refuge and shelter due to their suitability of in providing animals with life supporting conditions, helping them withstand harsh weather conditions" Al Mubarak added.

Al Mubarak explained that 34 forests have been developed as reproduction sites for wildlife populations. Today, these forests shelter around 54,000 individuals of different species of antelopes and sand gazelle. Since EAD received the mandate of managing the forests of Abu Dhabi, it has been making extensive efforts to provide appropriate standardised conditions for wildlife populations living within the forests through the development of infrastructure and logistics allocated for the nutritional processes and ensuring that adequate veterinary care and biosecurity procedures are in place. Al Mubarak also pointed out that "EAD has focused on studying and assessing the genetic status of the sand gazelle population due to the fact that this species constitutes the largest percentage of the total animal populations in AD forests, 70%, on the one hand, and due to the importance of this species in the natural heritage of the UAE on the other."

Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said, "The programme for the assessment of the genetic diversity of the sand gazelle population, which is implemented by EAD and Barari Forests management company, is the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant, which is the natural and historical range of this species. The outcomes of this project will allow EAD to be a scientific reference for many institutions wishing to repeat this project at the national or regional level.

Al Dhaheri stressed on the significance of the programme, which was implemented over two years by a team specialised in wildlife management and genetic studies. Given its outcomes represented in the key information base, individuals carrying desirable genetic traits can be determined for EAD to develop programmes and plans for the management and sustainability of wildlife populations inside the forests and protected areas.

She added that EAD has completed the implementation of its first phase of the project and that other wildlife species will be targeted in the following phases, such as mountain gazelles and the Arabian Oryx. - Emirates News Agency, WAM –


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