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QNHG members visit Oryx Breeding Centre


DOHA AROUND 60 members of the Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG) visited the Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre at Al Shahaniya recently.

The members were greeted by officials Adel al Yahri and were escorted to a theatre for a presentation by Dr Abdul Moti el Adhami.

The visitors learnt more about the Oryx, which is facing extinction in the region.

The Arabian Oryx differs from the African species. The colouring of its face and legs varies from dark brown to black as opposed to the more reddish-brown colour of the African Oryx. It also has straighter horns.

A world breeding programme was initiated with nine remaining animals transported to the Phoenix Zoo in Arizona, the US. The programme was successful and resulted in the reintroduction of Oryx in conservation projects in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

However, Qatar’s conservation initiative developed independently from a small herd of animals which was collected by the late Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Abdullah al Thani. He was one of the first to recognise, in the 1960s, the urgent need for conservation of this rare animal.

An Oryx farm was established in 1979, using stock from captive groups. While the breeding programme met with some success, it also suffered significant setbacks at first, due to disease and inadequate veterinary care.

Nowadays, excellent veterinary care is provided, including vaccinations and good diet. The number of Oryx held at the Breeding Centre has now risen to 1,250.

To maintain the quality of the stock and to avoid inbreeding, males are exchanged periodically with other collections outside Qatar. To reduce the chances of disease threatening the Oryx population, the animals are now divided, with herds in other fenced locations in Qatar.

In Saudi Arabia, some experiments in reintroducing the animals to the wild have started, but due to less availability of large areas in Qatar and the risk from hunters, there are no plans for reintroduction in the country.

The QNHG thanked the officials Talal al Naimi, Adel al Yahri and Dr Abdul Moti el Adhami for the visit.

After concluding their visit to the Breeding Centre, the group went to a camel racing track where young camels were being prepared for a race, with their robot riders.

Lastly, a visit to the Equestrian Club, adjacent to the Doha racecourse, rounded off the group’s excursion.

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