*The antelope is Qatar's national animal *Herd strength to reach 50 in coming days *Initiative to protect biodiversity
As part of the strategic plans to maintain biodiversity in the country and nurture wildlife, the Department of Natural Reserves at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has released a herd of 18 Arabian oryx, the national animal of Qatar, at the fenced off Sealine Protectorate.
More antelopes are expected to be released in the area in the coming days, taking the total strength of the Arabian oryx herd to 50, a ministry statement explained yesterday.
The ministry is keen to maintain varied geographical distribution of Arabian oryx in the different reserves and protectorates across the country to decrease the chances of all the animals contracting diseases. In addition, this will avoid the inbreeding among the same herd.
The presence of Arabian oryx in the Sealine and adjacent Al Udeid areas would enhance the environmental tourism potential. The Department of Natural Reserves is studying a number of similar environmental and tourist projects in the country, which include releasing ostriches, and deer at the fenced off protectorates across the country.
Co-ordination will be maintained with the entities concerned in the tourism sector to organise tours to these protectorates, the ministry’s statement added.
With long spear-like horns, sharp and contrasting markings laid, the Arabian oryx, is one of four species of antelope that lives in harsh desert environment and is native to the Arabian Peninsula, as explained by the Visit Qatar website.
An Arabian oryx is easily identified by its bright white coat (sparse fur) which reflects the sun’s rays, broad hooves, allowing it to walk with relative ease in the sand along with the long, distinct, slightly curved horns employed by both male and female species. The oryx is known to be an animal of tremendous stamina that covers long distances by foot in the desert, at times clocking more than 70km during the night.
The Arabian oryx has been considered an animal of beauty by the people of the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. With its oversized horns and elegant body, the antelope holds huge cultural significance in the Gulf. Being the largest antelope in the area it has a remarkable tenacity to survive in one of the most inhospitable natural environments in the world.
Fortunately, the immense conservation measures taken by Qatar through what was known as Operation Oryx paved its way to breed a small plethora of these animals in captivity and was then kept in private collections until they were finally reintroduced into the wilderness in 1982.
The Al-Maha sanctuary also called the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is where the breeding of the antelope species takes place in Qatar, the Visit Qatar website adds.