Press Esc to close

Oman opens oryx reserve to ecotourists

AFP, Dec 24 2017, 0:18 IST
(FILES) This file photo taken on March 01, 2016 shows an Arabian Oryx at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Umm Al-Zamool, some 290 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi near the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia. The Gulf sultanate of Oman is looking to carve itself a new niche in ecotourism by opening up a sanctuary for one of the desert's most fabled creatures -- the Arabian oryx. / AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 01, 2016 shows an Arabian Oryx at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Umm Al-Zamool, some 290 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi near the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia. The Gulf sultanate of Oman is looking to carve itself a new niche in ecotourism by opening up a sanctuary for one of the desert's most fabled creatures -- the Arabian oryx. / AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB

The Gulf sultanate of Oman is looking to carve itself a new niche in ecotourism by opening up a sanctuary for one of the desert's most fabled creatures -- the Arabian oryx. Once extinct in the wild, the rare member of the antelope family famed for its elegant horns has been dragged back from the precipice in a sprawling reserve fenced off for decades from the public.

That changed last month when authorities for the first time officially opened the sanctuary to visitors -- part of a broader bid by Oman to boost tourism as oil revenues decline. On a recent outing, wildlife rangers in SUVs patrolled the sandy plains of the reserve in central Oman's Haima province, spotting groups of grazing oryx and other indigenous species.

For years, the main goal has been a basic one -- ensuring the oryx can survive by focusing on "helping the animals here reproduce and multiply", said sanctuary spokesman Hamed bin Mahmoud al-Harsousi. But now, as numbers have ticked up from just 100 some two decades ago to almost 750 today, the authorities began eyeing another role for the reserve.

"There has been more interest in its tourism potential -- to take advantage of its uniqueness and rare animals," Harsousi said. The story of the Arabian oryx -- sometimes referred to as the Arabian "unicorn" due to its distinctive profile -- is one of miraculous survival.

Hunted prolifically, the last wild member of the species was killed in Oman by suspected poachers in 1972. The species only clung to existence thanks to a programme to breed them in captivity and in the early 1980s a batch of 10 were released into Oman's Arabian Oryx Sanctuary.

Since then, regenerating the oryx has been an often precarious process.

The Omani sanctuary sprawls over 2,824 sq km of diverse terrain -- from flat plains to rocky slopes and sandy dunes. Its own fate has been nearly as tortured as that of the oryx it houses.

In 2007, the sanctuary became the first place ever to be removed from UNESCO's World Heritage list as the government of Oman turned most of it over to oil drilling.

Harsousi puts the current number of Arabian oryx in the sanctuary at 742 and says that other species are flourishing there too. "In the past three years, we have been able to increase the number of the Arabian gazelle, known as sand gazelles, from 300 to about 850," he added.

In addition to the animals, there are 12 species of trees that provide a habitat for diverse birds. Those working at the oryx sanctuary hope that it can help play a lead role in luring visitors to the country.

But there are also fears that greater openness could see the return of an old foe -- hunters.

With that in mind security is being kept tight, said Abdullah Ghassab Obaid, a wildlife guard at the reserve.

"Thirty guards and a police patrol are working to provide security in the reserve to prevent any infiltration."

Go to Top

More from this section
Most trending stories
Photo Gallery
Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar and actor Rekha pose for a picture...

Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar and actor Rekha pose for a picture...

Actor Sunny Leone gives her measurement for her wax statue to be displayed at Madame Tussauds...

Actor Sunny Leone gives her measurement for her wax statue to be displayed at Madame Tussauds...

A woman dries red chillies at a field in a village near Jodhpur on Thursday....

A woman dries red chillies at a field in a village near Jodhpur on Thursday....

Pope Francis holds a cross that reads in Spanish

Pope Francis holds a cross that reads in Spanish "I give you my peace" upon arrival...

A villager displays a mortar shell allegedly fired on a residential area from the Pakistan...

A villager displays a mortar shell allegedly fired on a residential area from the Pakistan...

A contingent of Territorial Army wait during the Republic Day parade rehearsal at Rajpath...

A contingent of Territorial Army wait during the Republic Day parade rehearsal at Rajpath...

'Boyevaya Machine Pekhoty' tanks seen at Vijay Chowk during the Republic Day parade rehearsal...

'Boyevaya Machine Pekhoty' tanks seen at Vijay Chowk during the Republic Day parade rehearsal...

Artists paint an idol of Goddess Saraswati at a workshop in Amritsar on Thursday...

Artists paint an idol of Goddess Saraswati at a workshop in Amritsar on Thursday...

Cranes lift a Boeing 737-800 of Turkey's Pegasus Airlines in Trabzon, Turkey...

Cranes lift a Boeing 737-800 of Turkey's Pegasus Airlines in Trabzon, Turkey...

Tableaux artists rehearse for the upcoming Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi...

Tableaux artists rehearse for the upcoming Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.