The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, have just released a further 54 Scimitar horned Oryx into the wild in Chad. This latest release is a significant milestone for progress of the initiative, which seeks to reintroduce this extinct-in-the-wild species.
This largest reintroduction yet brings the number of animals in the wild to 89. The reintroduction efforts of the last year have seen the population grow with 16 calves now recorded in the wild.
EAD, along with their project partners, the Chadian Ministry of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Sahara Conservation Fund, aims to achieve a wild free-ranging, self-sustaining population of 500 animals in the Ouadi Rime Ouadi Achim game reserve in Chad. It is believed that the last Scimitar horned Oryx disappeared from Chad in the late 1980’s and the species was officially declared "Extinct in the Wild" globally by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, in 2000.
The animals selected for the reintroduction come from the ‘world herd’ that EAD has been curating at its breeding facility in Delaija, Abu Dhabi. Many of the animals that make up the world herd were generously donated to EAD from the collection of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The genetic diversity of the blood-stock has been increased with the addition of animals that have been kindly donated from a number of zoos and private collectors across the globe.
A very careful selection process takes place at the Delaija facility whereby animals are carefully tested and prepared for shipment to the project pre-release facility within the protected area in Chad. After release, the wild herds are protected by wildlife rangers of the Government of Chad Ministry of Environment and Fisheries.
EAD is working closely with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Zoological Society of London to carefully monitor the daily movements of the animals in the wild with the aid of satellite collars.
Commenting on the latest progress, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD's Secretary-General, said, "We have a long way to go before achieving our target of 500 animals in the wild. But our progress thus far is already exceeding expectations. We have now had animals in the wild for over a year, they are showing every sign of not only adapting to, but thriving in their new environment.
"The project's success is the result of the wonderful partnership and commitment from the Abu Dhabi Government and the Government of Chad. We also have numerous members of the world's conservation community to thank for their continued support of this initiative," Al Mubarak noted.