أThe center was established in April of 1986 and it is located 30 kilometers east of al-Taif city, at an altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level with an estimated area of about 35 square kilometers. The whole area is fenced off as a semi-desert nature reserve dominated by Acacia gerrardii trees and wild herbs. Houbara and Arabian oryx are being cared for in the center as the most important endangered wildlife, caring for and breeding them in fences ranging from half a hectare to one hundred hectares. 70 hectares have been allocated within the boundaries of the center as a botanical reserve to conduct studies comparing the natural vegetation cover inside the reserve and the vegetation cover exposed to overgrazing outside the reserve with the aim of restoring deteriorating natural areas.
Aims and Objectives of the Center:
- Breeding Saudi endangered wildlife in captivity.
- Reintroducing captive bred wildlife inside the designated protected areas for rehabilitation of wildlife within their geographical natural habitat in the kingdom.
- Conduct follow up monitoring of rehabilitated wildlife through conducting environmental studies to monitor wildlife adaptation after their reintroduction.
- Share in conservation programs in the natural habitat of wildlife including conservation measures and studies of desert ecosystems and management of protected areas and mobilize support from different community stakeholders to support conservation through environmental awareness and educational programs.
Achievements and aspirations:
The center continuously achieves its main objectives since its inception with a human capacity of about 100 employees, experts, technicians and trained workers. The center has mainly succeeded in breeding the Arabian Oryx and Houbara bustard birds, in addition to a limited breeding of Red-nick ostriches, Nubian ibex, Onagers and hares for scientific research purposes. Groups of Arabian Oryx were reintroduced in Mahazat as-Sayd, Aruq Bani Maared Protected Areas and Houbara bustards were reintroduced in Mahazat as-Sayd, Saja and Umm al-Ramth Protected Areas and Red-nick ostriches were reintroduced to Mahazat al-Sayd Protected Area. Within the framework of the environmental studies program that the center is conducting various studies in protected areas on biological diversity, the propagation of wildlife species and their biological and behavioral aspects, in Harat Alhurra, Mahazat as-Sayd, Saja and Umm Al Ramth, Ridah Protected Areas and parts of the Empty Quarter. The environmental awareness programs presented by the center, such as special videos and mobile exhibitions, have achieved great success by carrying the message of preserving the wildlife to thousands of students in different stages of education and to citizens and residents in cities and villages and even in remote areas. The center aspires to continue to restore the depleted wild populations by breeding and reintroducing them in new protected areas managed for the purposes of continuing to protect the remaining wild populations.
The Oryx is one of desert angulates, which is white in color, with a harmonious body, and it is probably the one that was woven around the ancient myths of unicorns. The Arabian Oryx can live in the driest regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite these capabilities, the Arabian Oryx became extinct from the wild more than a quarter of a century ago, as the last of its groups fell with the guns of hunters in 1972. The species was saved from extinction by breeding in captivity. In the year of the establishment of the Wildlife Authority in the Kingdom, the Center began the Arabian Oryx Breeding Program by transferring 57 heads of oryx from King Khalid's farm in Thumama to the Research Center in Taif. The center is currently producing disease-free herds of oryx for reintroduction in their natural habitats. 67 heads of oryx were released between 1990 and 1994 in Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area, whose area is estimated at 2,200 square kilometers. It is completely fenced and located 150 kilometers northeast of al-Taif. During the following years, the number of wild groups increased to more than 430 animals. Following the success achieved in establishing self-breeding wild groups of Arabian Oryx in the Mahazat as-Sayd reserve, the center undertook another project to reintroduce the oryx in Uruq Bani Maarid Protected Area, which has an estimated area of 12,000 km2 and is located on the western edge of the Empty Quarter desert in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. The center released 121 oryx between 1995 and 1999 in Urouq Bani Maarid Protected Area. Females began giving birth immediately after their release. Within four years a herd of more than 190 oryx had formed across the reserve.
In order to preserve this desert bird from extinction in the Kingdom, the Captive Breeding Houbara Project was established at the Prince Saud Al Faisal Center for Wildlife Research. The main objective of the project was to form a group that could self-breed and reproduce Houbara chicks that could be reintroduced in the suitable habitats in the Kingdom. This reintroduction will establish new natural breeding populations. The center succeeded in hatching the first Houbara egg in 1989. As a result of improving methods of artificial insemination and incubation. This coincided with the results of the physiological research on reproductive, nutrition and growth of houbara. The center was able to produce sufficient numbers that were first launched in nature in 1991 in Mahazat as-Sayd Protected Area. And between 1991 - 1998, the number of birds released in the protected area reached 330 birds. Birds began to naturally reproduce in the reserve in 1995 and recorded the first nests of Houbara bustards in the center of the Kingdom after a lapse of more than forty years. After ten years of work, the center was able to breed Houbara in large numbers annually, amounting to 300 birds in 1999. The success continued with the production of more than 2000 Houbaras during the ten years of the beginning of work in the center.
The Arabian leopard is a feline species that is still exist in very few numbers in the mountainous regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Studies estimate their numbers at less than a hundred individuals, which means that they are rarer than the famous "Panda". These predators play a vital role in the natural balance of the number of wild hares, hyraxes, and baboons which are increasing in number that pose a threat to farms and residential areas. The center is currently seeking to implement a program for captive breeding after obtaining two males of Arabian leopards, which are considered the nucleus of the captive breeding program.
The number of Ibex in the Kingdom decreased as a result of hunting. The center started a project to breed them with 26 heads donated from the wild park and the Saint Diego Zoo, and the center maintains a small group in a semi-natural conditions for the purpose of the environmental awareness project and to search for the possibility of reintroducing them in their natural habitats.
The Hamadryas baboons are spread in the mountainous regions in the southwest of the Kingdom. The studies conducted by the Center's researchers on their behavior, reproduction, and nutrition have provided sufficient information to manage their groups that sometimes overlap with areas of human activities.
Birds of Prey
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located in an important part of the migration routes for birds of prey, and its vast lands constitute a winter haven for many of these birds, including two types of Osprey: The Eastern imperial eagle, and the Steppe eagle. The center's researchers have studied the movements and migration routes of these birds by tracking them continuously via satellites. The project began in 1992 with the Argus Satellite Watch Company, in cooperation with the International Working Group for Birds of Prey and with the Wildlife Authority in the Kingdom. By the year 1997, the center had flown 292 birds of prey and installed 22 satellite sensors on ospreys and three others on falcons, which enabled tracking of their migratory routes.
Onagers spread from Arabia to China and are represented by many sub species. The Syrian wild onager is an extinct subspecies that was present in the Arabian Peninsula till 1927. The Persian onager is considered the closest subspecies which the center maintains a small group of them with the aim of multiplying them and possibly reintroducing them in the appropriate habitat.
Other Projects are a part of major projects to document Saudi biological diversity to choose what is conserve and manage from protected areas. Researchers of the center have conducted and contributed to many wildlife projects, including studies on plants, insects, birds, bats, foxes, sand cats, Arabian wolves and Arabian leopards and are conducting many studies of natural ecosystems in various natural environments in the Kingdom.