Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Al Ain Zoo Establishes New Partnerships with Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

Al Ain Zoo Establishes New Partnerships with Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

- Al Ain Zoo further enhances efforts to conserve arid land species -

Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, 07 May 2014: In line with its ongoing commitment to the conservation of arid land biodiversity and species, Al Ain Zoo has established new partnerships with the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, two leading non-profit conservation organisations in Africa to support conservation and research projects for endangered species.

Commenting on the new partnerships, Muna al Dhaheri, Chief of Conservation and Education at Al Ain Zoo said:

“Al Ain Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of arid land wildlife. Partnerships with leading organisations such as the Sahara Conservation Fund and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy are valuable for us with the high number of endangered African species found in the zoo. Working together will allow us to further support our successful breeding programmes, a key objective for all modern zoos.”

The Sahara Conservation Fund focuses on the conservation of the biodiversity of the Sahara Desert and neighbouring grasslands, a vast area spanning many countries across North Africa. The area contains many unique endangered species due to over-hunting, habitat loss and competition with livestock. Several species have either become extinct in the wild or are on the brink of extinction, including the Scimitar-horned Oryx, Addax and Dama gazelle. Al Ain Zoo has bred these species and others successfully for many years.

Al Ain Zoo, in cooperation with the Sahara Conservation Fund, is supporting the monitoring of lappet-faced vultures and research into the ecology of the Barbary sheep and the Dama gazelle, all species which can be seen in the zoo. This collaborative work will help identify and prioritise conservation needs in the attempt to prevent them from becoming extinct.

John Newby, the Director of the Sahara Conservation Fund said:

“The world zoo community forms the backbone of Sahara Conservation Fund’s efforts to prevent Saharan species becoming extinct in the wild. Our work with Al Ain Zoo is particularly valuable to us as the zoo brings with it its unique experience of arid land species and public outreach to some really pressing issues, such as the conservation of the critically endangered Dama gazelle.  This collaboration is a tangible demonstration of cooperation in the region for issues that are of common concern.”

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a 61,000 acre protected area in Kenya with a rich diversity of species and habitats. Al Ain Zoo is supporting a number of Lewa’s important projects including the monitoring of Rhinos, predators and the endangered Grevy’s zebra as well as the annual count of game species. With the zoo’s support Lewa has been able to expand and improve its critical species projects by employing and equipping dedicated project officers.

Geoffrey Chege, Chief Conservation Officer of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy said:

"The partnership between Lewa and Al Ain Zoo presents both organisations with an excellent opportunity to further our understanding of key endangered species including the black rhino, Grevy's zebra, lions and elephants. The knowledge gained will be extremely crucial in informing management decisions in a timely manner."

Al Ain Zoo has become part of an international movement within the global zoo community to combine in situ (wild) and ex situ (captive) conservation efforts. The zoo also works with its regional and international partners to sustain the genetic diversity of captive endangered species.

Al Ain Zoo is a member of the World Association for Zoo and Aquaria (WAZA) and is actively involved in several internationally coordinated conservation projects, working with other like-minded organisations such as Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, the Species Survival Commission, San Diego Zoo, the Northern Rangelands Trust of Kenya and the Sahara Conservation Fund.

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