Al Ain Zoo forms partnership to protect arid-land wildlife

Protecting arid land wildlife is the aim of a new partnership between Al Ain Zoo, the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The critically endangered Dama gazelle is one of the animals hoping to be protected thanks to a new partnership. Courtesy Al Ain Zoo
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ABU DHABI // Protecting arid-land wildlife is the aim of a new partnership between Al Ain Zoo, the Sahara Conservation Fund and the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

The zoo, in cooperation with the Sahara Conservation Fund, is supporting the monitoring of lappet-faced vultures and research into the ecology of the Barbary sheep and the Dama gazelle, all species that can be seen in the zoo.

“Partnerships with leading organisations such as the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy are valuable for us with the high number of endangered African species found in the zoo,” said Muna Al Dhaheri, chief of conservation and education at Al Ain Zoo.

“Working together will allow us to further support our successful breeding programmes, a key objective for all modern zoos.”

The Sahara Conservation Fund focuses on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Sahara Desert and neighbouring grasslands, a vast area spanning much of North Africa.

The area contains many unique species that are endangered because of over-hunting, habitat loss and competition with livestock.

Several species have either become extinct in the wild or are on the brink of extinction, including the scimitar-horned oryx, addax and Dama gazelle. Al Ain Zoo has bred these species and others successfully for many years.

“Our work with Al Ain Zoo is particularly valuable to us as the zoo brings with it its unique experience of arid-land species and public outreach to some really pressing issues, such as the conservation of the critically endangered Dama gazelle,” said John Newby, director of the Sahara Conservation Fund.

“This collaboration is a tangible demonstration of cooperation in the region for issues that are of common concern.”

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 61,000-acre protected area in Kenya with a rich diversity of species and habitats.

Al Ain Zoo is supporting several of Lewa’s important projects including the monitoring of rhinos, predators and the endangered Grevy’s zebra as well as the annual count of game species.

With the zoo’s support, Lewa has been able to expand and improve its critical-species projects by employing and equipping dedicated project officers.

“The partnership between Lewa and Al Ain Zoo presents both organisations with an excellent opportunity to further our understanding of key endangered species including the black rhino, Grevy’s zebra, lions and elephants,” said Geoffrey Chege, chief conservation officer of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

“The knowledge gained will be extremely crucial in informing management decisions in a timely manner.”