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The Uruq bani Mu’arid Protected Area. Image Credit: Courtesy Saudi National Centre for Wildlife Development

Abu Dhabi: The Saudi Wildlife Authority has declared the Uruq Bani Mu’arid Protected Area the first model reserve in the Kingdom, in line with the highest international standards.

The authority said on Twitter the development programme will be launched this year with the participation of local and international experts.

Uruq Bani Ma’arid is one of the largest protected areas in Saudi Arabia at 12,000 square kilometres. It was established by royal decree in 1995 for protecting the natural landscapes of the Ar-Rub‘ Al Khali desert and to be home for the reintroduction of the flagship species of Arabia including the Arabian Oryx, Al Reem Gazelle and others.

It is located on the western edge of Ar-Rub‘ al-Khali, south of the Tuwayq escarpment within the Riyadh and Najran regions, 700km to the south of the capital.

The nearest large city is Najran some 300km. Several nearby towns and villages are located to the north west of the area including Al Sulayyel, Wadi Al Dawasir and Sultanah.

The protected area is totally state owned with recognition of traditional use rights mainly related to camel grazing. The area is managed by the Saudi Wildlife Authority, the national agency mandated with the establishment and management of national protected areas. There are 15 protected areas established by the authority throughout the country.

A development buffer zone is currently being considered to the east and west of the protected area to mitigate possible urban development to the west and natural resource use to the east.