Oryx walk the sands of Neom after nearly 100 years, nature reserve official says

Oryx, ibex and gazelles return to the desert in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia released oryx, ibex and gazelles in the desert. Photo: Neom Nature Reserve
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Saudi Arabia has returned oryx, ibex, sand gazelles and mountain gazelles to the desert in Neom.

The animals arrived from the National Centre for Wildlife in Riyadh in late October.

After spending time in special pens to acclimatise to their new environment, the animals were released into the nature reserve.

“The wildlife release was a historical moment. This is the first time that an oryx has walked the sands of Neom in nearly 100 years," said Paul Marshall, head of the Neom Nature Reserve.

This is a key first step in Neom’s plans to contribute to conservation, a press release said.

The reserve aims to host one of the largest rewilding programmes ― conservation efforts to restore and protect natural processes and wilderness areas.

"We will be able to preserve 95 per cent of Neom's land and sea for nature, and implement a science-based programme of protection, restoration, and rewilding,” Dr Marshall said.

The arrival of the animals is the first stage of Neom’s wider nature restoration effort, including a major regreening initiative to restore wildlife, reintroduce rare or locally near-extinct wildlife species, and ensure the protection of wildlife from illegal hunting.

Nadhmi Al Nasr, chief executive of Neom, addresses partners and guests before the release of the animals. Photo: Neom

First unveiled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017, Neom is Saudi Arabia's flagship business and tourism development on the Red Sea coast. It is a central project in the 2030 Vision outlining the kingdom's plans to diversify the economy.

The $500 billion development will include smart towns and cities, ports and enterprise areas, research centres, sports and entertainment venues and tourist centres.

The development will be spread across 26,500 square kilometres and will comprise several zones, including industrial and logistics areas. It is planned for completion in 2025.

The plans include a network of airports, including an international one. The first, Neom Bay Airport, is in the northern region of Sharma and opened last year, operating regular flights for Neom investors and employees.

Neom is designed to respond to some of the most pressing global challenges facing urban areas and inspire an alternative way of living.

The city will preserve 95 per cent of the natural environment around the site, highlighting mankind's relationship with the natural world.

All energy in Neom will be 100 per cent renewable — from solar, wind and hydrogen-based power generation — ensuring a zero-emission, carbon-positive ecosystem.

Those behind the project say Neom will be a regional powerhouse in water production and storage, anchored on water desalination. High-tech interoperable, modular systems will attract water-related research companies and start-ups to drive innovation and lead in all sectors of the water industry.

Neom's water distribution network will be completely connected through advanced infrastructure. This will ensure minimal water loss, putting Neom at the forefront of water technology.

Saudi Arabia's Neom project – in pictures

Updated: December 15, 2022, 1:14 PM