Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hope for Tunisia's oryx and addax

Courtesy of the Sahara Conservation Fund

November 2012. With the aftermath of the Arab Spring still being played out in front of the world's media, conservation work away from the spotlights is helping Tunisia restore its once vibrant large mammal fauna. Almost 50 years since Tunisia's Forest Law laid down the basis for wildlife conservation in the country, the results are on the whole positive. 

Many desert species, like the Dorcas gazelle and the North African ostrich, enjoy the relative safety of the semi-wild in restored habitats inside a significant network of protected areas. However, the most striking success is probably the return of the large antelopes, the scimitar-horned oryx and addax, which existed in large herds but are now considered extinct in the Wild and Critically Endangered by IUCN respectively.

The reintroduction of antelopes into a network of relatively small, fenced protected areas poses particular challenges because of inherent risks to small isolated populations.

Hence, in collaboration with Sahara Conservation Fund, Marwell Wildlife is starting a 2-year project to assess the impact of increasing numbers of oryx on their habitat and the effects of limited space on the performance of the population in Dghoumes National Park. The results will help inform management of the species, and create a practicable monitoring system that could be applied more widely.

180 oryx now in Tunisia
It is now 27 years since the first group of scimitar-horned oryx was brought back to Tunisia from UK zoos. Several other imports have occurred since then and there are now about 180 individuals in four protected areas (Bou Hedma, Sidi Toui, Oued Dekouk and Dghoumes).

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