Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in collaboration with the Government of Chad, began preparation to begin the first reintroduction attempt of the Scimitar Horned Oryx back into its natural habitat in Chad.

The reintroduction programme seeks to promote a healthy and sustainable environment for up to 500 Scimitar Horned Oryx over a period of five years, in an isolated natural reserve within the Oadi Rime-Oadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad. Following extensive research, the release area was selected to provide the Scimitar Horned Oryx with the optimal habitat to ensure the prosperity of its population, a press release issued by EAD said on Sunday.

The Scimitar Horned Oryx, native to Central and Northern Africa, has been extinct in the wild for more than 15 years due to unregulated hunting, loss of habitat, and lack of resources. Across the world today, the Scimitar Horned Oryx can only be found in protected reserves, with the UAE being home to over 3,000- the world’s largest single population.

Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler’s representative in the Western Region and Chairman of EAD, said: “The UAE government is strongly committed to wildlife conservation and over the years has been successful in the preservation and protection of different endangered species. With the support of the UAE leadership, the effort to reintroduce this beloved species into the wild, is realization of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s legacy in conserving wildlife and protecting the terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the UAE and across the world.”

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General at EAD, commented: “This is a pioneering project given that the natural reserve will not rely on fenced and closed spaces. The successful reintroduction programme will ensure this magnificent species has a safe, sustainable environment to roam freely, and ultimately will help remove the Scimitar Horned Oryx from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of extinct in the wild species.”

The first year of the reintroduction will see the transfer of 100 animals by plane from Abu Dhabi to the Republic of Chad with the first animals arriving by the end of 2015, where the animals will first be released into an acclimation area in order to adapt to the new habitat before their final release into the wild.

EAD will take the lead in managing the reintroduction programme and providing technical expertise, while the Government of Chad, represented by the Ministry of Environment and Fisheries, will be managing the reserve and the release area, as well as enforcing the application of the relevant wild life conservation laws. The Sahara Conservation Fund will work on behalf of the EAD, to provide the necessary workforce, the technical and scientific expertise, in addition to developing the staff capability, monitoring efforts and plan management.

The Smithsonian Institute will evaluate the herd through a satellite monitoring programme to ensure the safety of the herd and track their movement following release. The Zoological Society of London is also involved in the project to conduct environmental studies and assess the release habitat, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will be responsible for conducting genetic testing.