Desert Antelopes, a highly threatened and beautiful group of animals, are a key part of Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort’s (AWPR) conservation work. The year 2010 has seen a bumper harvest of young animals born in the zoo and a number of conservation research initiatives are moving ahead. 2010 marked one of AWPR’s best recorded year for Antelope births, with a record number of young Antelope raised, including 16 Scimitar-horned Oryx, 27 Arabian Oryx, ten Beisa Oryx, four Addax, three Chad Dama Gazelles, six Mhorr Dama Gazelles and six Speke’s Gazelles.
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The Scimitar-horned oryx and Mhorr gazelle are extinct in the wild and only survive in captivity, making AWPR’s herds extraordinarily valuable. The Addax survives with fewer than 300 individuals in the wild. The Beisa oryx, native to the dry lands of North East Africa, is declining rapidly, already extinct in Eritrea and Uganda and with populations rapidly declining in Kenya. The Arabian oryx at AWPR are being utilized by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) for their regional oryx conservation projects, with animals from AWPR being used for reintroduction in the UAE and Jordan. AWPR veterinarians work with EAD to support the management of reintroduced animals and have recently worked with herds in UAE, Jordan and Syria.
The desert antelopes are threatened with extinction by a history of uncontrolled hunting, continued overgrazing of their arid habitats, disease and now climate change.
AWPR is an active member of the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF). In 2009, AWPR and SCF hosted an international workshop on the conservation of the Scimitar-horned oryx, and in October 2010 AWPR supported a follow-up workshop in Algeria, a meeting that focused on the reintroduction of the oryx to range nations in the Sahara-Sahel region.
Working with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Edinburgh Zoo), AWPR is undertaking a genetic analysis of its antelope herds to assess their relationships to other zoo populations and to identify strategies for their long-term genetic management. Similarly, working with San Diego Zoological Society, AWPR is developing demographic strategies for the long-term management of these valuable herds in both San Diego and at AWPR.
AWPR has set up a number of strategic partnerships with leading conservation agencies and associations from across the world, including a 20-year exclusive agreement with San Diego Zoological Society, which will be instrumental in the development of all project aspects, especially those related to the wildlife. Other strategic partners include Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the Northern Rangelands Trust of Kenya and Sahara Conservation Fund. For more information on desert antelope please log onto the Sahara Conservation fund website http://www.saharaconservation.org/