Sir Bani Yas, the renowned nature and wildlife island reserve, recently welcomed a new addition to its vibrant wildlife population – the endangered Arabian Tahr Arabitragus jayakari. The conservation introduction has been the result of the joint efforts by the Sir Bani Yas Operations Team, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), Barari Forest Management (BFM), which manages the Island’s flora and fauna, and Al Bustan Zoological Centre (ABZC), a non-commercial zoo based in Sharjah.
The core objective of this conservation introduction is to establish a dedicated breeding programme at the ABZC and on the island simultaneously, as well as to ensure that the animals adapt to a natural environment on Sir Bani Yas. Part of the island’s conservation mandate is to prepare the animals for a re-wildling programme and to introduce the Arabian Tahr back to locations where they currently and formerly lived.
Ahmed Abdul Jalil, Chief Executive Officer, Barari Forest Management (Abu Dhabi) and owner of Al Bustan Zoological Centre (Sharjah), said: “The world is rapidly losing countless amazing species, and the integrity of the ecosystem. H.H. Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, long ago, recognized our responsibility towards our future generations to ensure, that they experience UAE’s natural environment as their ancestors did. We are privileged to initiate this Conservation introduction program that represents our approach towards conservation of UAE’s natural and historic heritage and the sustainable vision of our future.”
Classified as ‘Endangered’ on the Red List by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, the Arabian Tahr, which is indigenous to the Hajar Mountains range between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Sultanate of Oman, is a medium sized animal of the goat family that inhabit mountainous areas as its preferred natural habitat. The late UAE President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan had introduced the Arabian Tahr to Sir Bani Yas in the mid 1990’s as part of his drive to protect the indigenous species of the UAE. In 1999, they were removed from Sir Bani Yas and placed in a special breeding programme established in Al Ain, which currently houses over 450 Arabian Tahr.
Marius Prinsloo, General Manager of Sir Bani Yas Corporate Operations, said: “The return of the Arabian Tahr to Sir Bani Yas Island is a momentous occasion; with this initiative we will tell a story to the people of the UAE and the rest of the world of what was almost lost, what is here today and what will be in the future. This project represents the beginning of a brand new era where Sir Bani Yas and its partners will work with these animals and also collaborate with a number of other national and international organisations to ensure the future of the Arabian Tahr for generations to come.”
The animals brought from the ABZC will be monitored closely over the coming months to ensure that they have settled comfortably into their new life on Sir Bani Yas. They are currently being housed in a special camp that mimics the Tahr’s natural environment. The animals’ natural diet is also under study with the aim of introducing plants that are native to their natural habitat, so when future generations are released back into the wild, they are able to identify and graze on food sources that are found in their natural distribution range.
Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, the Executive Director of Terrestrial & Marine Biodiversity at EAD, said: “It is with great enthusiasm and pride that these Arabian Tahr’s have been returned to Sir Bani Yas Island under a Conservation Introduction Project. This was not an easy task and it took a dedicated team of professionals representing various stakeholders such as the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, TDIC, Barari Forest Management, Al Bustan Zoological Centre and IUCN/SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group, who developed a plan that closely followed internationally-formulated guidelines for animal re-introductions and translocations. This finally culminated in the Arabian Tahr being released onto Sir Bani Yas Island.”