Muscat: Continuous poaching of two protected animals—the Arabian Tahr and the Arabian Gazelle—in Oman might be leading to a decline in their numbers, according to an official at the Office of Conservation at the Diwan of Royal Court.
According to a study published in 2015 by officials at the same department, the Arabian Gazelle, Gazella Arabica, was once widely found in Oman, but its population has decreased through illegal hunting and capture of the species.
“I think their population might be in decline because they are targeted by poachers,” said an official from the Office of Conservation at the Diwan of Royal Court.
Ras A’Shajar and Wadi Sareen, both of which have protected statuses, are the two main nature reserves in Muscat. “In Muscat, we have two main nature reserves and across Oman there are about 20; some are managed by the Office of Conservation at the Diwan and others by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, and it (poaching) happens everywhere in the interiors or Dhofar, all over Oman.”
Oman attaches great importance to wildlife and environment protection, and has several nature reserves, including the Damaniyat Islands, Ras Al Hadd, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, Saleel Nature Park, Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve, and Khawrs Reserve of Dhofar Coast.
Both the Arabian Tahr (Endangered) and Arabian Gazelle (Vulnerable) are on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) threatened species. According to the IUCN, the total numbers of gazelles across the world in 2008 were estimated to be less than 15,000, with Oman having the highest at 13,000 gazelles till the late 1990s. The numbers of Tahrs were estimated to be fewer than 5,000 all over the world.
IUCN, however, said this population has been declining with major threats being illegal hunting for meat and live capture for pets and private collections, particularly in Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Although there have been a considerable number of shooting incidents at nature reserves in the past, the most recent one is from two days ago at the Ras A’Shajar nature reserve, which is a habitat for Arabian Gazelles.
“The poachers have been arrested by the rangers of our office and of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA). This happened in Quriyat,” the official said.Commenting on the purpose of poaching, the official said, “People like hunting, some people do this out of habit, it’s like a hobby, maybe they want to eat the meat or sell it. In our office what we do is that we have our rangers, who patrol these protected areas, and if they suspect any unusual activities by cars or individuals around, they follow them and arrest them.”
Last month, a number of people were arrested and weapons seized after shots were fired in a protected wildlife reserve.
In February, two rangers at the Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve in Al Amerat were taking a break, when two shots were fired in their direction. One bullet hit their parked car, while another narrowly missed one of the rangers.
The Wadi Sareen Nature Reserve was established in 1975 and is famous for its Arabian Tahr, Gazelle, Leopard and Bird populations. The Office of Environmental Conservation at the Diwan has a zero tolerance policy towards violators of wildlife protected areas, and perpetrators will be issued harsh penalties under
Royal Decree No. 6/2003 on the Law on Nature Reserves and Wildlife Conservation, Article (15), paragraph (b) stipulates that “whoever intentionally kills, catches or smuggles any of the animals or birds shown (1) or any genetic material thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of not less than six months and not exceeding five years and a fine of not less than OMR1000 and not exceeding OMR5000, or either of these penalties.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has called upon citizens and residents to follow the laws, regulations and legislations in force with regards to nature reserves and protected sites.