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Planet Earth Under Threat

Leaping Ibex of Saudi Arabia

  • Alasdair Cross
  • 31 Jul 07, 04:10 PM

Pulling Arabia’s wildlife back from the brink is the job of the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre near Riyadh. The centre is run by the Saudi government in collaboration with our own Zoological Society of London. Here they use the latest genetic techniques to build up viable groups of local endangered species which are then released into large protected areas.

Manie Grobler, a Namibian biologist took me to meet some newly released Mountain Gazelle on a reserve close to the northern edge of the Empty Quarter. After a long, thirsty day of fruitless radio-tracking we were delighted to spot the first baby born to the group.

Alongside his day job at the KKWRC Manie is a photographer of astonishing patience, as shown by his wonderful shot of an Ibex leaping across a gully on the same reserve we visited. The Ibex, like the gazelle and the region’s other remaining large mammals, has clung on to life only in the most inaccessible parts of this famously inaccessible country. Life here has evolved to deal with the harshest natural conditions. Given a little help from man and some real protection from the hunters many of the rare species are genetically equipped to breed themselves back into contention.

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