- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

1:44 p.m.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Nearly 100 Arabian oryxes have been released into the desert of the United Arab Emirates in an attempt to reintroduce the creature to its natural habitat after 40 years of extinction in the Persian Gulf country.

The Arabian oryx is a large and graceful white antelope with antennalike horns that was officially declared extinct from the wild in 1972 because of hunting and habitat destruction.

The plan is to release about 100 captive-bred oryxes into remote desert areas in the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi every year until 2012, for a total of 500. Ninety-eight have been set free this year, Abu Dhabi’s environmental agency announced Sunday.

“Our terrestrial environment research center has been releasing these oryxes in hopes to create a self-sustaining population that roams freely in our deserts,” Majid al-Mansouri, secretary general of the agency said in a statement.

The agency is in the process of having the nearly 4,000-square-mile habitat classified as a protected area. Desert rangers will patrol the area, the agency said.

Shelters and feeding centers are helping oryxes adapt to their new environment. These will be removed gradually as the animals learn to survive independently.

Of the five species of oryx in the wild, the Arabian oryx is the only one that inhabited the Middle East. The other four species are found in Africa. The Arabian oryx’s traditional range once extended into the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

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