DHAHRAN: Aramco has identified 10 sites for biodiversity conservation on an area of 950 square kilometers, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The sites — spread across from Shaybah in the south to Ras Tanakib in the north, and from Abu Ali in the east to Abha in the west — will cover a variety of unique ecosystems to protect more than 500 species of plants and animals, including at least 55 species or subspecies unique to the Kingdom.
The species present at the sites are either threatened, migratory or endemic species.
Aramco has always worked toward protecting the environment and endangered species in the region. Due to overhunting, Arabian oryx, sand gazelles and ostriches were locally extinct in the region.
Aramco’s establishment of the Shaybah Wildlife Sanctuary in 2016 has succeeded in bringing back some locally extinct species, including oryx, gazelles and ostriches.
It is one of the company’s voluntary community initiatives in the field of sustainability.
The sanctuary has fenced an area of about 637 square kilometers in the pristine habitats of the Empty Quarter. It protects wildlife from threats such as random vehicle entry, grazing, littering and hunting, as well as protecting dozens of native plant species.
The Shaybah Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 10 Arab endemic species, 39 of 50 species on a high-priority list of conservation and 13 regionally endangered species.
Recent biodiversity surveys have also revealed the presence of 11 species of native plants, 13 potential species of reptiles, 18 species of mammals and 176 species of birds, of which 169 are migratory.
One of the results of the recovery is the spread of organic matter in the form of natural waste from animals and birds, which has led to the nurturing of the arid desert sands in addition to a more active water cycle. The reduction of camel grazing has also helped flourish the flora and fauna in the region.
The reserve’s guards have recently recorded sightings of golden eagles in the sanctuary for the first time, as well as the presence of a large number of lizards and hares.
The second phase of the project will see the arrival of more animals until the number of species within the reserve reaches the desired level.
This phase will also enhance academic partnerships between Aramco and other academic institutions, paving the way for future environmental research in the region.
In 1972, there were only four Arabian oryx. The last wild ostrich was spotted in the the Arabian Peninsula in 1939, and the numbers of sand gazelles had decreased significantly.
Today, there are now 130 Arabian oryxes, 120 Arabian sand gazelles and four red-necked ostriches.
Not only has Aramco contributed to protecting the future of endangered species, but it has also helped pave the way for the recovery of the entire ecosystem.
Aramco’s efforts to preserve the environment and wildlife have received recognition and accolades.
In 2019, Shaybah Wildlife Sanctuary was audited by an external party and obtained the ISO 9001 Quality Management Standard, while its production department received the Aramco President’s Award for Environmental Preservation twice.
In 2010, the sanctuary won an award for the best industrial facility from an environmental point of view within the GCC, and in 2018, the management received the Saudi Aramco President’s Excellence Award.