SHAUMARI WILDLIFE RESERVE
Shaumari Wildlife Reserve was established in 1975 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature as a breeding center for endangered or locally extinct wildlife. Today, following breeding programs with some of the world’s leading wildlife parks and zoos, this small, 22-square-kilometre reserve is a thriving protected environment for some of the most rare species of animals in the Middle East. Oryx, ostriches, Onagers (an Asian wild ass) and gazelles, which are depicted on many local 6th century Byzantine mosaics, are rebuilding their populations and reasserting their presence in this safe haven, protected from hunting and habitat destruction that nearly wiped them out.
The Oryx and Onagers can often be seen roaming freely in their large desert grassland enclosure, and gazelles can be observed in their own fenced areas. Shaumari’s breeding enclosures provide a small “zoo” for visitors, making the reserve a popular spot for children and school outings.
The Arabian Oryx Story
The Arabian Oryx, an elegant white antelope, is one of the few mammals indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. It became extinct in Jordan around the 1920s, because of the increased hunting for its meat, coat and horns. The increasing range and power of rifles compounded by the factor of motorized vehicles were the key to the extinction of the Oryx. The last known wild Arabian Oryx in the world was killed by hunters in Oman in 1972.
Fortunately, previous to this incident, in 1962, the Flora and Fauna Preservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund had launched an international rescue effort known as Operation Oryx. A world survival herd was established in the USA, with three animals from Oman, one from the London zoo, one from Kuwait, and four from Saudi Arabia. This herd increased steadily in numbers, and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature proposed that the Arabian Oryx should be reintroduced into its native habitat in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.
In 1978, eleven Arabian Oryx were relocated in Shaumari. The number of Oryx has now increased to a phenomenal two hundred! Operation Oryx has been so successful that Jordan now supplies Oryx to other countries, which are conducting reintroduction programs.