Yesterday around 100 members of the Qatar Natural History Group visited the Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre (AOBC) near Sheehaniya in the centre of the Qatar peninsula. They were met and welcomed by Dr Kassem Nasser al-Qahtani, the Director of the Department of Animal Resources and a former director of the AOBC.
Dr Abdul Moti, the present director of the AOBC, gave a presentation to the group of visitors on the efforts which have been made to rescue the species from what was at one time extinction in the wild due to hunting and destruction of its natural habitat, and to eventually release it into large, carefully maintained reserves.
From less than 150 animals, Dr Moti said, there are now over 1,000 being cared for at the breeding centre and at reserves within Qatar at Sheehaniya, Ras Ushaijrij and al-Maszhabiya.
After watching a video on the oryx project and on the efforts being made by the Ministry of the Environment to preserve habitat for it and other endangered species, the group toured the AOBC and were given the opportunity to have close-up views of the herds of oryx and rheem gazelle. The gazelle, which became extinct in Qatar in the 1950s, has now been successfully released into open protected areas and stock is numbered at around 4,000.
Qatar was the first country in the Arab region to breed the Arabian oryx in captivity, and what was begun as a hobby by the late Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani was later taken over by the government.
The Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre is run by the Department of Wildlife Conservation of the Ministry of the Environment, and is one of a few sites in the Middle East which have been established to prevent the extinction of the Arabian oryx. Healthy breeding stock is regularly exchanged with reserves in the UAE and Oman so as to avoid inbreeding.
The QNHG would like to thank Drs Kassem al-Qahtani and Abdul Moti for the successful visit.
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