Middle East

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: Hessa Al-Hagbani: DGDA’s Rising Star

How Saudi Arabia’s Wildlife Refuges Help Conserve Rich Biodiversity

Jeddah: Constant economic development with expanding agriculture and industry, mining of minerals and fossil fuels, and improved health and nutrition is leading to a global population explosion.

This has resulted in urban areas such as cities and towns encroaching on previously uninhabited lands and animal habitats.

Living standards have risen for centuries, but the upward trajectory of unsustainable development has caused immense harm to plant and animal life, including carbon emissions, deforestation, and overexploitation of land and fisheries. , placing a heavy burden on the world’s ecosystems.

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s semiannual Living Planet Report 2020, nearly one million animal species face extinction in the next few decades, devastating pollinators and our food systems. can have consequences.

But as Saudi Arabia’s efforts show, the situation is not uniformly bleak. From the rugged mountains of the Hijaz and the lush green oases of the east to the wide valleys and vast desert plains that cover 30% of the country, the diverse landscapes are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

In order to maintain this rich biodiversity, the Kingdom’s authorities are devoting considerable resources to conservation activities, including funding projects aimed at protecting endangered species and expanding nature reserves, and protecting vulnerable areas. It prevents further human encroachment into the habitat.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the launch of a project in AlUla’s nature reserve and watches gazelle foals run. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, but is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, dedicating vast tracts of land as wildlife sanctuaries safely protected from urban, agricultural, or industrial expansion. can be secured.

These efforts date back to 1978, when Saudi authorities first set aside an area of ​​82,700 square kilometers to protect natural habitat. In 1986, the Kingdom established the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development to oversee conservation initiatives.

One of the first species-specific programs initiated was a captive-breeding project for Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii, commonly known as the robin goose, whose populations have declined as a result of overfishing and land-use change.

Poaching, falconry, unregulated hunting, overhunting, overgrazing, and habitat loss have placed this bird on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Endangered Species List as ‘Endangered’.

Several long-term breeding projects have been initiated to build self-sufficient populations of robin within a network of managed sites and prevent local extinction. The Prince Saud Al Faisal Wildlife Research Center successfully hatched the first robin egg in 1989.

Two years later, the center has bred enough to be released into the Mahazat As Said Reserve. In his first two years on the project, the center has bred more than 2,000 robin for release into the wild.

Farasan Island Nature Reserve. (provided/SPA)

Building on the center’s monumental work, Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve Development Authority announced in August this year that it had launched its own Hobara Breeding Center to replenish the local population.

As part of its efforts to protect and restore the ecosystem, Saudi Arabia is mobilizing environmentalists, scientists and a special task force to work with international organizations such as the IUCN to develop plans for nature reserves.

A reserve was created to protect the endangered species in the area. Many of them combine conservation activities with ecotourism and the development of public recreational spaces.

Currently, the National Wildlife Conservation and Development Board manages 15 reserves and is reviewing proposals to grant conservation status to an additional 20 reserves.

A further 40 areas are managed by other bodies such as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the Ministry of Local Government, Neighboring Countries and Royal Commissions such as Jubail, Yanbu and AlUla.

The Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Research Center in Taif, the Prince Mohammed Al-Sudaily Center for Reem Gazelle Breeding in Al-Qasim and the Arabian Leopard Sharan Nature Reserve in Al-Ula are among the existing facilities in the Kingdom. Located in a protected area. Helping endangered species thrive.

From the rugged mountains of the Hijaz and the lush green oases of the east to the wide valleys and vast desert plains that cover 30% of the country, the diverse landscapes are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. (AFP)

Covering an area of ​​130,700 square kilometers, the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Nature Reserve, the Kingdom’s largest reserve, is home to about 277 species of native vertebrates, including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Its three main protected areas – Kunfa, Tubaik and Harat Al-Hara – are sanctuaries for various migratory bird species such as Rimu gazelles, Arabian wolves, Arabian oryx, sand foxes, Nubian ibex, Arabian spine-tailed lizards, and robin roses and golden eagles. It has become. Eurasian stone curlew.

A KSRNR spokesperson told Arab News that “species of conservation concern are protected and conserved, primarily to ensure that these species are adequately protected from both natural and human threats. It takes a lot of effort to do that,” he said.

“These efforts include, but are not limited to, several conservation and conservation programs to restore, reintroduce, monitor, protect, and raise awareness of habitats. Current reintroduction programs contains major and endangered species, mainly Arabian Oryx, Nubian Ibex, Arabian Sand Gazelle, Arabian Gazelle and Asian Roared Rose.

“The interim outcome of such programs and efforts is to record signs of acclimation in individuals and to develop new-born individuals in the wild of reintroduced species, including the first wild-born oryx in 90 years.” It is promising, such as succeeding in having a

“Another success story … is the breeding population of Griffon Vultures within KSRNR, believed to be one of the largest resident breeding populations in the Middle East.”

Hobarano goose is released. (attached)

Despite recent efforts by governments and agencies around the world to protect ecosystems, the pace of wildlife and habitat loss is staggering.

“The main obstacles facing the animals are habitat degradation due to overgrazing of local livestock, mainly camel herds, and hunting,” said a KSRNR spokesperson.

“The Royal Reserve’s professional team is tackling these problems of habitat degradation by implementing restoration programs as well as using advanced methods and techniques for animal monitoring and protection. .”

Marine habitats in particular are suffering as a result of pollution, acidification and rising temperatures. For example, Australia’s Great Barrier He Reef has lost more than half of its coral due to rising ocean temperatures in recent years.

Meanwhile, marine life is disappearing rapidly around the world, with whales, dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles, and many species of fish disappearing at twice the rate of their terrestrial counterparts.

An archipelago off the southwest coast of Saudi Arabia, the Farasan Islands are known for their unique biodiversity. It is home to over 230 species of fish, a variety of coral reefs, and endangered marine animals such as dugongs.

The Arabian Oryx returns to the wild after years of uncontrolled hunting. (attached)

Since 1996, the area has been a protected nature reserve covering 5,400 square kilometers and was recently added to UNESCO’s Global Network of Insular and Coastal Biosphere Reserves.

It is a sanctuary for the kingdom’s largest colony of endemic gazelles, the white-tailed mongoose, and several species of rodents.

The area is also an important corridor for migratory birds, with about 165 species passing through. There is also a concentration of flamingos, Eurasian Spoonbills, the Red Sea’s largest pinkbuck he pelican, and the Middle East’s largest osprey.

To some extent, its secluded location contributes to the conservation of the area and the animals that live there. However, certain terrestrial and marine species are currently declining due to new coastal development, shipping passages and rising water temperatures, necessitating efforts to protect and restore marine ecosystems.

Ten billion mangrove trees will be planted across Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, launched last year to tackle climate change, reduce carbon emissions and improve the environment.

Millions of mangrove trees are planted to help marine habitats. (Shutterstock)

The nature reserve contributes to the Kingdom’s afforestation initiative. KSRNR is committed to restoring 90% of degraded habitats by 2040, aiming to plant 70 million native wild species saplings.

“KSRNR will plant 1 million native seedlings in 2022,” said a spokesperson. “The plantation’s goal is to double by 2023 and plant two million seedlings.

“This will be a contribution to KSRNR’s SGI target for its land area: 30 million seedlings in 2030 and 70 million seedlings in 2040.”

Despite these great efforts, and the work of conservationists elsewhere, experts say that if we are to avoid extinction of the breathtakingly diverse animal species with which we share our planet, It warns that more needs to be done, both locally and globally.

https://www.arabnews.com/node/2155261/saudi-arabia Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: Hessa Al-Hagbani: DGDA’s Rising Star

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