SAUDI ARABIA: Rare species protected in first national biosphere reserve
In 2000 Saudi Arabia pledged to establish its first biosphere reserve – in one of the few places in the world where the Nubian ibex still breeds in the wild.
The 2,200 km2 reserve, located west of the town of Ha’il in north central Saudi Arabia, will be known as the Jabal Aja’ Biosphere Reserve, and includes the largest mountain massif in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula.
The area is considered a ‘refugia’, dating back to the times when the Arabian Peninsula had a cooler and wetter climate. It encompasses wetlands and many threatened wildlife species including the Arabian wolf and the striped hyena as well as the Nubian ibex.
The area has a greater concentration of biological diversity than anywhere else in the interior of the entire peninsula - and is a national gene bank for plant and animal species.
The reserve is a Sacred Gift given by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development (NCWCD) as well as by the people of the Ha’il Emirate – who own local palm groves, wells, livestock and agricultural enclaves, and who have pledged their support for and participation in the Gift.
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state governed by Shari’ah, the law of Islam. The reserve’s creation and management embodies specific Islamic rulings relating to the sustainable management of natural resources especially through the concept of “hima”, a traditional method of protecting range land and water resources.
An environmental education centre and wildlife park is also to be established in collaboration with the NCWCD and local education authorities.