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EAD successfully reintroduces 25 Scimitar Horned Oryx in Chad

posted on 22/03/2016: 1801 views



Twenty five Scimitar Horned Oryx (SHO) have arrived safely to their natural habitat in Chad as part of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Government of Chad reintroduction programme.

This initiative aims to create a healthy and viable population of up to 500 Scimitar Horned Oryx in an isolated natural reserve within the Oadi Rime-Oadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad, which extends over an area of 77,950 square kilometres.

The first shipment of Oryx, will be held in a large fenced area to acclimatise prior to being released into the wild after the commencement of the rainy season when pasture is at its most abundant (summer 2016).

Initially every single Oryx released will be fitted with a satellite collar. Data from these collars will be monitored by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington D.C. This data will be used to track and help protect individuals and also to gather behavioural data on the species, which in turn can aid further species reintroduction efforts.

EAD has also trained a team of wildlife experts and rangers on the ground in the reserve to monitor the Oryx and conduct community outreach programmes to ensure their continued protection.

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD said, "Inspired by the late Sheikh Zayed's legacy and efforts to protect endangered species and sustain them in their natural habitat, the Scimitar Horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme was initiated on behalf of the government of Abu Dhabi in close collaboration with the Government of Chad. This is possibly the world's most ambitious large mammal reintroduction programme and a huge step in the field of conservation."

"This project is a reminder that species conservation not only crosses boundaries in its global nature, but it unites peoples and humanity. Today and under the guidance of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's representative in the Western Region and chairman of EAD, the first of a genetically strong herd of Scimitar Horned Oryx is transferred to Chad. In this transfer, we share the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed and unite the aspirations and hopes of the people of the UAE, Chad and the international community in bringing back a magnificent species from the grips of extinction" she added.

Al Mubarak also noted that "In an effort to ensure maximum diversity and quality of stock for reintroduction, EAD is establishing a "World Herd" of Scimitar Horned Oryx in Abu Dhabi at the Deleijah Breeding and Conservation Centre. This includes the original collection of the late Sheikh Zayed and selection of a variety of Oryx from 16 institutions from several European countries, the United States, and the UAE where EAD is carefully managing the herd, working on breeding the species to enhance and strengthen the gene pool for eventual release into its distribution range in protected areas around the world- of which Chad would be the first destination."

Dr. Sheikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD said, in preparation for the Oryx release, EAD's terrestrial biodiversity team have conducted several visits to the reserve in Chad to assess the release area's physical space and study the available natural habitat, ensuring the abundance of food and shade, in addition to determining the specific logistics of the translocation from Abu Dhabi to the reserve."

"Our veterinary team conducted genetic testing of approximately 500 Scimitar Horned Oryx located at EAD's wildlife management facilities. This herd are the core of the reintroduction programme in the Republic of Chad. EAD also worked on constructing and equipping acclimation enclosures, staff residences, as well as recruiting an appropriate workforce, and securing supplies and materials required for the project", Dr Al Dhaheri said.

In 2015, EAD received 42 Scimitar Horned Oryx from the United States, originating from six different facilities including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and private collections. Fourteen Scimitar Horned Oryx have recently been added to the collection from Marwell Wildlife Centre in the UK. They originated from seven different institutions including zoos in Germany, France, Denmark, Poland and the UK. All of these individuals will contribute to EADs genetically diverse world herd.

As part of this programme, EAD and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland conducted genetic studies and computer modelling to determine the number of individuals and the genetic diversity of the population required to give the best chance to not only survive but proliferate in the wild. Our target is to achieve 500 individuals in the wild, which is deemed sufficient to create a viable population.

The Scimitar Horned Oryx has been classified as "Extinct in the Wild" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. There have been no sightings for more than 15 years due to unregulated hunting and loss of habitat. At present the Scimitar Horned Oryx can only be found in captivity. The UAE is home to more than 3000 individuals- the world's largest single population. They are adapted to high temperatures, harsh environments and can live for a long periods without drinking water.

The Scimitar Horned Oryx was native to the Sahelian areas of Central Africa, including Chad. Following extensive research the Oadi Rime-Oadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad, was deemed to be the optimal habitat for the Oryx reintroduction. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395293173012.html

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