The number of Arabian oryx in the UAE's largest nature reserve increased by more than a fifth in less than four years, a new study revealed.
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi carried out an aerial survey of the 6,000-square-kilometre Al Dhafra reserve to assess the success of ongoing conservation efforts.
The desert antelope had been hunted to verge of extinction in the 1970s.
Now, more than 10,000 of the animals can be found in the Emirates – about half of which are in Abu Dhabi.
The oryx population in the Al Dhafra reserve now stands at 946, a 22 per cent increase on four years ago.
Al Dhafra was home to just 160 of the animals in 2007, when the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Arabian Oryx Reintroduction Programme was established.
Efforts to bolster numbers date back much further, however, and are a lasting legacy to the vision of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father.
"Arabian oryx is an iconic species of the desert landscape and a symbol of our cultural heritage, and was almost hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1970s and only survived in captivity," said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, secretary general of the EAD.
“Thanks to extensive captive breeding of the species undertaken by the late Sheikh Zayed, the species was saved.
"This project has become an example to be followed across the world and represents great success for protection and captive-breeding programmes,” she said.
Survey helps breed confidence in conservation programme
In the latest survey, 83 calves were recorded, accounting for almost 9 per cent of the herd.
More than three quarters of the desert-dwelling antelope were found to be female, a healthy number for the herd to continue to grow.
The specialist team from EAD also counted sand gazelles and other species, as part of the agency's commitment to preserving biodiversity in Abu Dhabi.
Based on the survey, the researchers made a series of recommendations, including creating zones in the protected area in proportion to the distribution of the Arabian oryx herds.
Periodic veterinary surveillance was also recommended, in line with international standards for the reintroduction programmes.
In pictures: endangered species in the UAE
The sand dune cat (Felis margarita) is a nocturnal creature that lives in shallow burrows and hunts rodents. Research published in 2005 indicated that only 250 remained in Abu Dhabi emirate. Courtesy, Al Ain Zoo
The Arabian leopard is currently listed as critically endangered. Pawan Singh / The National
This is the first sighting of the rare Rüppell's fox (Vulpes rueppellii) in 13 years. Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi
Whale sharks are known as jinbe zame in Japanese, inspiring their newly discovered residents' name.. Getty Images
Arabian Caracal (Caracal caracal) - IUCN status: least concern - thought to be extinct, the environment agency captured daytime and nighttime footage of the creature for the first time since 1984. Courtesy EAD
Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) - IUCN status: Endangered - The UAE is one of 140 countries where the green turtle is a native species; numbers have fallen worldwide - Two years ago Emirates Wildlife Society – WWF launched Gulf Green Turtle Conservation. Courtesy Paul Velasco/EWS-WWF
Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) - IUCN status: Vulnerable - Found on islands of the coast of several Gulf states, including the UAE - Threatened by development and oil spills, the species has a total population of less than half a million. Courtesy- Rob Gubiani
Emirati leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus) - IUCN status: Least concern - Only found in mountainous regions of north-eastern UAE and northern Oman - More recent research suggests it actually consists of three species, one of which is unique to the UAE ‚Äì making it the country's only endemic vertebrate ‚Äì and threatened by development. Photo Courtesy: Johannes Els.
Sea cow (Dugong dugon) - IUCN status: Vulnerable - Locally, boat strikes and fishing net entanglement is a threat, although there are major conservation efforts - The population in UAE waters is thought to be several thousand
The Crested Porcupine, a rodent thought to be extinct in the UAE, was recorded by camera traps in Abu Dhabi. Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi
Gulf sand gecko (Pseudoceramodactylus khobarensis) - IUCN status: Least concern - Found widely in the Arabian peninsula, especially in the UAE - This species is not endangered but its population is declining, and in the UAE it faces threats from the development of coastal sabkha habitat. Photo courtesy-Salvador Carranza)
Keyserling's wonder gecko (Teratoscincus keyserlingii) - IUCN status: Not yet evaluated - Although this species is also found in Iran, the UAE population is the only one in Arabia - Heavily threatened by development, it could be driven to extinction locally, although the Mohamed bin Zayed Species. Pritpal Soorae / Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
Hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran) - IUCN status: Endangered - Widely distributed, but threatened by fishing for its fins and as accidental bycatch - Numbers have plummeted by four-fifths over the last quarter of a century. Image by Â© Norbert Wu/Science Faction/Corbis
Hawksbill turtles, rated as Critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, have begun laying their eggs on a beach in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari) - IUCN status: Endangered - Restricted to mountainous regions of north-eastern UAE and northern Oman - Worldwide population is probably below 5,000. ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National
Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) - IUCN status: Endangered - Often become entangled in fishing nets - A recent census found 701 individuals, so the waters off Abu Dhabi have the world's largest single population. Roland Seitre / Minden
The semaphore gecko is one of several species we have learned a great deal about in recent years. Getty Images
The Houbara bustard is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Courtesy International Fund For Houbara Conservation
Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) - IUCN status: Vulnerable - Formerly listed as endangered, the UAE's reintroduction programme has helped to increase numbers - The wild population is about 1,200, just over half of which are UAE reintroduced individuals. Mike Young / The National
Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia) - IUCN status: Vulnerable - Found in much of the Middle East in gravelly and stony areas, but numbers have declined - Two sub-species exist in the UAE, where it is threatened by habitat loss
Green sawfish (Pristis zijsron) - IUCN status: Critically endangered - The largest sawfish, it can reach up to seven metres in length - This coastal species has declined across its range and has become extinct from some countries. AP Photo
The Arabian tahr has been categorised as an endangered species, with a global population of less than 5,000. Courtesy TDIC
Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) - IUCN status: Near threatened - Populations have suffered because of fishing - This species was spotted this year off the UAE's east coast