Mahazat Al-Sayd — A model reserve for endangered species

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MAHAZAT Al-Sayd Reserve.

MAHAZAT Al-Sayd Reserve.

MAHAZAT Al-Sayd Reserve, located in Al-Muwaih governorate on the western edge of the Najd Plateau nearly 150 km away from Taif, covers an area of over 2,200 sq. kilometers, making it the second largest fenced natural reserve in the world.

Protected from livestock grazing and hunters, the reserve has seen a remarkable recovery of native vegetation and the successful reintroduction of the endangered Arabian oryx, houbara bustard, ostriches and sand gazelles.

Since the early 1990s, endangered animals successfully bred at the King Khalid Wildlife Research Center (KKWRC) near Riyadh, have been released in Mahazat Al-Sayd Reserve where their populations have since thrived, according to a report in Al-Hayat newspaper. The reserve now serves as a reservoir of wild habituated animals for other reintroduction sites, the report said.

According to Ahmed Al-Bouq, director of the National Wildlife Research Center, 17 Arabian oryxes were recently moved to the Uruq Bani Maarid Reserve, which is located on the western edge of the Rub Al-Khali desert (the Empty Quarter).

He said the oryxes would be tagged with satellite and other monitoring kits so researchers can monitor their body temperatures, metabolism rates and movement. The center teamed up with King Saud University and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to develop the program at a cost of SR2 million.

The reserve has five programs for the reintroduction of the Arabian oryx. The total number of reintroduced oryxes has reached 72 and the reserve currently has a population of between 400 and 500 oryxes, considered to be the best herd of Arabian oryxes in the world from the aspect of genetic diversity.

In the Reem gazelle program, 150 gazelles were reintroduced in 1990. Their number has reached 600 to 700 gazelles.

As for the Arabian Admi gazelle, the program started in 2011 and is still ongoing. A herd of 40 gazelles was set free and nine more will be freed this year.

“Several births within the reserve have also been registered, which is an important indication of the program’s success,” explained Al-Bouq.

“As for houbara bustards, an increasing number of birds are re-introduced every year. The total number of reintroduced bustards has reached 1,000 in more than 20 years. Of these, 250 to 300 birds are being monitored with wireless and satellite monitoring devices. The success rate for the reintroduction of the houbara bustard stands between 50 and 70 percent,” he added.

The reserve, which has a population of 300 ostriches, has also successfully reintroduced 90 ostriches.

A number of environmentalists have called for expediting the enforcement of environmental policing regulations to protect land and sea environments and rare species threatened with extinction. This move is expected to help in the implementation of penalties against violators and create awareness on the importance of preserving wildlife and natural habitats.

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