Release of the LEARN MORE LEARN MORE SCF 2019 Annual Report

Who We Are

SaharaConservation is the only conservation organization in the world dedicated uniquely to the preservation of the fauna and flora of the Sahara and the Sahel.

SaharaConservation works with governments, academics and other conservation organizations on a wide array of species conservation activities, ranging from wildlife surveys and training, to protected areas management and reintroduction of extinct or critically endangered animals.

Along with partners worldwide, SaharaConservation develops long-term conservation solutions that integrate wildlife, habitat and human beings, and addresses the conservation needs of some of the hottest, the wildest and the most overlooked biodiversity hotspots on earth, the Sahara and the Sahel.

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PURCHASE OF A DRONE

Drone is a crucial tool to improve the performance of our ecological monitoring in the field

OSTRICH INFRASTRUCTURES

Increasing saharan ostrich numbers is one of our biggest challenges – to make a difference, we need the appropriate facilities

DAMA GAZELLE RESCUE

A rescue mission to save the less than hundred dama gazelles still living in the wild is their best chance of survival

Addax Conservation

Formerly found in great numbers over immense arid areas, addax populations have crashed to less than one hundred individuals in isolated pockets since the advent of modern weapons and transport, and more recently oil exploration and civil unrest. Today, the addax, a nomadic desert-living species, is the most threatened ungulate in the Sahara and quite possibly the world, and is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Sahara Conservation and its partners are using their expertise, sharing their knowledge, and mutualizing resource and effort as much as possible to prevent the addax from going extinct.

Overview

Sahara Conservation has been collaborating for years with other organizations, governments, and various stakeholders, to preserve the addax. Given the necessity to save the species now, the addax has became one of Sahara Conservation's priority species and animals will be reintroduced in different places of the Sahara and Sahel thanks to its expertise in this field and to the collective efforts of Sahara Conservation and partners. The long-term goal is to rebuild a free-living population wandering in healthy numbers through their historical range countries.

Sahara Conservation has been working on the addax since it was created over a decade ago. At that time, most of the remained known addax was confined to a vast desert area known as “Tin Toumma” in Niger – officially established in 2012 as the Termit & Tin Toumma Reserve thanks to an intense Sahara Conservation lobbying.

Sahara Conservation also provided strategic support through fundraising and communication to the wildlife authorities in Tunisia for the re-establishment of well-managed herds of addax and scimitar-horned oryx. The country is committed, as part of its national antelope conservation strategy, to re-establish both species in large fenced protected areas. Once viable populations have been established, the long-term vision is to remove fences in appropriate areas to allow true free-ranging herds to be reintroduced.

A big step forward was taken in the last two years with the decision to begin reintroducing the species in unfenced areas in Chad and Morocco on the horizon 2019.

Based on SaharaConservation’s experience and knowledge about addax and antelope reintroduction with the oryx project in Chad, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Moroccan wildlife authorities and SaharaConservation in 2018 with the objective of providing support for reintroduction and wildlife monitoring.

SaharaConservation and its partners, including the AZA Addax SSP, Conservation Centers for Species Survival (C2S2) and the Source Population  Alliance (SPA), are working towards the reintroduction of addax to former range sites in Chad (such as the Ouadi Rimé – Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve, by using the scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction facilities) to reinforce small, isolated sub-populations before they collapse and disappear. In 2019, the scimitar-horned oryx project enters its phase II, precisely switching to a multi-species reintroduction approach that will allow the return to the wild of a first batch of 25 individuals in November of this same year.

The situation is precarious for this species and recovery and recolonization of former range from the remaining small and fragmented wild population is unrealistic at present. Extinction of addax in the wild prevented and where possible viable populations reintroduced to secure habitats.

Addax restored to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim reserve in Chad at pilot/feasibility level (25-50 animals).

The main goal of this project is to strengthen the chance of success regarding the first ever addax reintroduction in Africa by tracking 100% of the released addax with GPS/Satellite transmitters over a period of 2 years. 

CURRENT SITUATION & CHALLENGES

The last hundred years has seen addax population plummet due to merciless hunting and the advent of modern weapons and desert-going vehicles. Today, the addax can only be found in two small populations, one in the Tin Toumma desert of eastern Niger and the other, across the border, in Chad’s Eguey-Bodélé region.

Currently, it is not possible to ensure the survival of wild addax in Niger and in the border with Chad because of insecurity and logistics constraint due to huge and remote addax distribution areas.

Addax can also be found in their historical range in semi-captive conditions in Tunisia and Morocco.

TAKING ACTION ON THE GROUND

An action plan for the remaining wild populations of addax in Niger and Chad, has been drafted by Sahara Conservation, ZSL, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, CMS, Noé, Niger and Chadian national agencies. It highlights three main priorities to save this species:

– Prevent the loss of more animals from the wild by ensuring effective protection from poaching at key sites and also extending protection to habitat, notably by establishing undisturbed zones away from water wells and livestock.

– Keep strong and effective links with the populations on site. Working with local communities who share the habitat and use the same pastures is essential to long-term success of conservation programs. Several agreements in Niger have been signed by the traditional local and administrative authorities, including the Déclaration de Dolé (2007), Déclaration de Dougoulé (2010). The Doungoumi Declaration (December 2016) even contains a commitment to protect wildlife and includes collaboration on removal of unauthorized wells: this agreement could serve as a model for elsewhere in the region.

– Establishing the fate of the largest addax population in Termit & Tin Toumma – whether it has been dispersed or greatly reduced, and locating remaining animals – is an urgent priority, as is establishing the extent and frequency of movement between sites. Monitoring programmes for populations of addax (and dama gazelle) should be continued and expanded where feasible, using standardised protocols. It is also important to expand the current genetic research on the wild and captive populations of both species.

LATEST NEWS ON THE ADDAX

Additional Resources

To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

How To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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Sandscript #30 – Antelope darting protocols in Chad

Read here the fifth article of Sandscript 30th issue The tele-anesthesia and chemical immobilization of wild antelopes that the Government of Chad, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Sahara Conservation strive to conserve falls under the responsibility of EAD veterinarians. The ultimate goal is to safely anesthetize individual animals from a distance to […]

Aerial survey of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve

An aerial survey of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (OROAGR), originally planned by the Project Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim (POROA) for 2020, but delayed by covid impact, was conducted last November. The objective was to provide updated information on the numbers and distribution of wildlife and livestock and record other environmental elements such as human [...]

EAD celebrates first critically endangered Addax born in the wild in Chad

ABU DHABI — The Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) announced that the first wild-born Addax calf (Addax nasomaculatus) was born recently in Chad.Within two days of the birth of the first calf, another was born. Both calves belong to a group of 15 Addax initially translocated from Abu Dhabi in November 2019 and released into […]

Dama Gazelle Conservation

The dama gazelle is one of the planet’s most endangered species, with less than 100 animals still living in the wild in 4 highly dispersed and isolated populations in Chad and Niger. Sahara Conservation monitors these tiny remaining populations and leads the efforts to secure them across both countries.

Overview

The remaining wild population is spread amongst four known sub-populations - in the Termit Massif and Aïr Mountains in Niger, Manga, and in the Ouadi Rimé – Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve in Chad. Sahara Conservation is playing a major role in raising awareness on the conservation status of the species, on the monitoring of these last individuals across the four areas, and on the securing of the remaining populations so they can breed safely and increase in numbers.

Through its different projects on the ground and various ecological monitoring missions in Chad and Niger, Sahara Conservation  has always kept an eye on the decline of the dama gazelle in the region and alerted the national authorities and the global conservation community.  In 2017, Sahara Conservation developed the use of camera trapping in remote areas of Niger, where some tiny groups of dama gazelles seem to have found refuge . In Chad, the scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction project has had a positive impact on the populations of gazelles living in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve since it was implemented there in 2016, thanks to an increased control on some poaching activities in the area. Even though they are relatively safe, there is still a need to improve their monitoring. A mission to translocate a dozen of dama gazelles still living in the wild in the Manga region of Western Chad to the OROAWR is under development in order to secure them as well.

The dama gazelle officially became one of the key focal species of Sahara Conservation overall program in 2018.

The situation of the dama gazelles is of high concern due to opportunistic poaching and a high level of disturbance caused by vehicles crossing its distribution area in both countries. To tackle this situation, Sahara Conservation aims to get the support of the local community by sensitizing them during dedicated workshop and by recruiting community game guards to warrant the protection of the Dama gazelle population from disturbance. The role played by local leaders and community game guards to secure this kind of approach from the reserve’s traditional land-users has been a crucial achievement so far and we think it will continue if we can expand the project’s reach and provide additional technical and financial support to implement the appropriate actions.

Sahara Conservation is also playing a major role in raising awareness with the governments of Chad and Niger and getting their full endorsement of the regional action plan drafted by Sahara Conservation, ZSL, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group, CMS, Noé, Niger and Chadian national agencies.

Through its various dama gazelle-related initiatives, Sahara Conservation hopes that, in the near future:

  1. A significant number of vulnerable, genetically-valuable dama gazelles is captured in the Manga in Chad and transferred to safety.
  2. The dama gazelle population in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim reserve in Chad is increasing and free from poaching.
  3. The monitoring and protection of the dama gazelle population in the Aïr Mountains, Niger, are improved.
REINTRODUCTIONS

The Mhorr gazelle (Nanger dama mhorr, a subspecies of the Dama gazelle) has been reintroduced in different locations of the Sahelo-Saharan region (in Senegal, Tunisia, and Morocco) but these reintroduction initiatives remained at the stage where the animals live in fenced protected areas of different sizes. In 2015, the first experience of reintroduction of a group of 24 Mhorr gazelle into the wild was conducted in the Safia Reserve, in Southern Morocco. It has notably shown that the species can recover most of its capacity to live in freedom, even after generations of life in captivity or in semi-captivity.

SURVEYING METHODS

Sahara Conservation and its partners have carried out many vehicle surveys based on standard transect techniques and analysis. Camera trapping are being used successfully in remote areas difficult to access like in the Termit massif and the Aïr mountains. Camera trapping is based on long term deployment of a sampling grid using good quality cameras and provides standardized indices of mammal species richness, with of course particular interest in results for dama gazelle. A mix of aerial and terrestrial surveys are used in Chad, especially in the Manga region, to assess the size of the wild population.

SCIENTIFIC DISCUSSIONS

In late 2018, Sahara Conservation Regional Program Officer pointed out the challenges of building a Dama gazelle world herd, mentioning the paradox of species disappearing in the wild while they keep increasing in captivity.  He called for more collaboration amongst zoos over the world as well as between them, private owners, and the conservationists. A few time later, Al-Ain Zoo organized a workshop gathering conservation experts from all over the world in which Sahara Conservation participated.

FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Sahara Conservation next steps concerning the dama gazelle conservation will be to better characterize the population living in the Air Mountains in Niger using especially individual identification. In Chad, will conduct aerial and terrestrial surveys to better assess the size of the remaining tiny dama gazelle population in this area before translocating them to safety (in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve) if relevant. Sahara Conservation will also improve knowledge about the species in the OROAWR.

Collaboration with locals

An Elusive Species

The dama gazelle is a symbol of beauty and elegance in Chad, and even elsewhere. Particularly vulnerable to poaching since the use of automatic weapons and vehicles has increased in the Sahara and Sahel, it is extremely rare to observe the species directly in the wild. Pastoralists and nomads regularly provide important information on the presence of animals or even poachers, especially in Chad.

In Niger, the particularly isolated situation of the sites where the dama gazelles have found refuge, and dedicated sensitization campaigns lead by Sahara Conservation amongst the locals, seem to have prevented the camera traps from being damaged or stolen. Once again, no conservation result can be obtained without the participation of the people living on site and Sahara Conservation and it is especially true in the case of dama gazelles conservation.

LATEST
NEWS
ON THE 
PROJECT

Additional resources

To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

How To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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Flora and vegetation of the Ougarta Mountains, a still little-known biogeographical crossroads

Read here the second article of Sandscript 32nd issue

Saharan plants: forgotten survivors and global assets

Read here the first article of Sandscript 32nd issue

Read Sandscript #32!

Dear readers, We are excited to share with you the 32nd issue of Sandscript, our publication dedicated to the unique biodiversity of the Sahara and the Sahel. This issue is celebrating the multiple plants that can be found in the Sahel and the work undertaken to improve our botanical knowledge in this neglected region.

Oryx Reintroduction

For the development of the Ouadi Rimé - Ouadi Achim
Wildlife Reserve, and the sustainable management of its biodiversity

Overview

The goal of the project is to preserve the biodiversity of the Ouadi Rimé - Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve in an integrated and sustainable way.

SaharaConservation has been working with the Chadian authorities to conserve the biodiversityof the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve (OROAWR) since 2001. Various missions and studies have shown the need to improve the management of the OROA wildlife reserve and the management of its biodiversity.

In 2015, SaharaConservation and its partners began the reintroduction of the Scimitar-horned Oryx (Oryx dammah). The long-term success of this reintroduction and its extension to other species is based on effective and sustainable management of RFOROA. 

In 2016, the Ministry of the Environment of Chad and SaharaConservation signed a Memorandum of Understanding, aimed at “strengthening relations between this Ministry, through the Directorate of Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas (DCFAP), and SaharaConservation, for the conservation of wildlife, habitats and the natural heritage of the Sahara and Sahel in Chad.”

The project « Support for the development of the Ouadi Rimé – Ouadi Achim Wildlife Reserve and the sustainable management of its biodiversity (POROA) » is part of the Support Program for the Preservation of Biodiversity and Wildlife. fragile ecosystems of Central Africa (ECOFAC VI) funded by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). 

The long-term survival of the Reserve’s fauna and the integrity of its habitat, but also the preservation of this pastoral area of high economic and vital value for a large number of pastoralists depend on finding solutions that reconcile pastoralism and conservation. 

North African Ostrich Recovery Project

With the exception of a few small savanna populations, the North African ostrich has completely disappeared from its previously vast Sahelo-Saharan range. Sahara Conservation’s North African Ostrich Recovery Project aims to provide the framework, resources and technical support to restore to the wild this highly-adapted desert race of ostrich in Niger.

Overview

As one of its first conservation projects undertaken in the Sahara-Sahel region, the North African Ostrich Recovery Project is fully part of Sahara Conservation's DNA.
Sahara Conservation goal is to produce enough birds at its breeding facility in Kellé, Niger, to begin returning small numbers of ostrich safely to the wild.

The North African ostrich (Struthio c. camelus) is one of four extant sub-species of ostrich. It alone inhabits the harsh environment of the Sahara and bordering Sahel. A century ago this race of ostrich inhabited the entire periphery of the Sahara both north and south, a total of 18 countries; today its range has been reduced to just six. The North African ostrich is critically endangered and without urgent conservation action may soon follow its cousin the Arabian ostrich into extinction.

In November 2008, Sahara Conservation began working with a local Nigerien wildlife organization – CERNK – to provide technical support and an improved ration to the ostriches they hold. During the two previous years these ostriches failed to produce any viable offspring. However, after an adjustment and recuperation period three female ostriches produced 49 eggs in 6 weeks. Sahara Conservation has also assisted other local owners, including Niger’s National Zoo with their ostrich breeding.

Sahara Conservation, The Saint Louis Zoo, the AZA Struthioniformes Taxon Advisory Group and CERNK decided to partner on a groundbreaking effort to save the endangered North African ostrich and aid its recovery in Niger.

Sahara Conservation collaborates actively with Niger in their efforts to save the species. There are 4 captivity breeding sites for the species in Niger, amongst which Kellé’s site, located in the South East of the country (near Zinder), offered the best potential to develop the infrastructures needed to develop new populations of North African ostriches. In 2011, Niger entrusted Sahara Conservation with the management of the site. Today, Sahara Conservation fully provides the human resources, food, infrastructures development needed for its functioning. In 2016, it assisted the government of Niger for the development of a national conservation strategy to increase the chances of a successful reintroduction (and in particular to encourage the exchange of ostrich and eggs between the different sites in order to increase the genetic pool). As part of this national strategy, Sahara Conservation also supports the other sites with their food, caring, and monitoring of individuals.

Impressive results have already been achieved since Sahara Conservation engaged in the project. There has been a significant increase in the number of individuals in each site, and well-established partnerships with the local private owners from the other sites in Niger have allowed the securing of the ostrich populations throughout the country. The project has recently entered a new phase with the identification of two release sites in Niger, one in the Tilala valley next to Kellé, and another one in the Gadabeji Biosphere Reserve in central Niger. The ultimate goal is to keep improving the breeding success rates of the birds and begin return individuals to the wild in small numbers on the horizon 2020.

A RAPID DECLINE

The North African Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus) is facing a rapid ongoing decline over the past 50 years due to hunting for feathers and food, egg collection and habitat loss. However, the ostrich as a whole is still listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List. These sub-species are lumped together as Struthio camelus with the far more common black and blue-necked ostriches.

REVIEWING TAXONOMY

Beyond the conservation objectives, Sahara Conservation and its partners are working to update the taxonomic status of this sub-species and to propose the North African ostrich be reclassified as a distinct species, like the Somali Ostrich. This taxonomic review is highly important since it would help raise more attention from the world conservation community and a larger public to the silent extinction of the North African ostrich.

IMPROVING CAPTIVE BREEDING

Over the last decade, the project has faced a series of issues like egg fertility, chick survival, predation by crows, etc. The ostrich is certainly not a domestic bird and does not breed easily in captivity. With dedication and motivation, Sahara Conservation and its partners have tremendously improved the infrastructure, the ration, the handling and the cares over the past decade, to enable the reproduction of the birds in captivity through natural and artificial incubation.

INNOVATING & EXPERIMENTING

Sahara Conservation is experimenting unique new facilities to increase the number of North African ostriches born in captivity at the breeding center of Kellé, Niger. The recent installation of a solar-powered hatchery and incubation unit on site should counterbalance the remoteness of Kellé’s location by providing electricity, running water, and the technology needed for the artificial incubation. A satellite system has also been set up to enable internet connection and monitoring of the containers performance by US-based engineers.

"This project is a model-in-the-making of participatory, grassroots conservation and a catalyst for the conservation of other endangered species. It demonstrates and reinforces the fundamental relationship required between successful conservation action and the local people that drive, implement and sustain it."

Bill Houston - Vice-Chair of Sahara Conservation's board

Raising Awareness

Simple Fade With Icon

Sahara Conservation has been instrumental in raising awareness with the local community, in particular the young generations, and support for the development of the national strategy for the ostrich’s conservation.

Long-term success depends on empowering and building the capacity of local communities to look after their natural resources and this project is as much about achieving this as it is about saving an endangered species; they are intrinsically linked.

Sahara Conservation has now deep connections with the villages around the ostrich site and visited schools to provide environmental education to the children with a focus on the North African Ostrich. It regularly facilitates workshop with officials and local stakeholders to build up the conservation strategy for the species.

LATEST
NEWS
ON THE
PROJECT

Resources

To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

Help To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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  • Blog
  • Stories

Read Sandscript #32!

Dear readers, We are excited to share with you the 32nd issue of Sandscript, our publication dedicated to the unique biodiversity of the Sahara and the Sahel. This issue is celebrating the multiple plants that can be found in the Sahel and the work undertaken to improve our botanical knowledge in this neglected region.

Le retour de l’autruche d’Afrique du nord dans la réserve de faune de Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim au Tchad

Découvrez ci-dessous le 4e article de Sandscript #31 L’autruche présente au Tchad est connue en tant que sous-espèce : « autruche d’Afrique du Nord – Struthio camelus camelus », communément appelée autruche à cou rouge. 

Programme de conservation de l’autruche d’Afrique du Nord au Maroc

Découvrez ci-dessous le 3e article de Sandscript #31

Chad Oryx Reintroduction Project

The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Project in Chad is a joint initiative of the Government of Chad and the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi. In Chad the project is implemented by Sahara Conservation in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, Fisheries and Sustainable Development. Technical support is provided by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the Zoological Society of London, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and Saint Louis Zoo.

Presentation

With a distribution that once extended unbroken across the sub-desert belt of Africa, from Mauritania and Morocco in the west to Egypt and Sudan in the east, the scimitar-horned oryx disappeared from Sahelian grasslands more than 30 years ago due to overhunting, exacerbated by periods of severe drought. The Scimitar-horned oryx were last seen in the wild in the 1980s. In 2000, the species was assessed as Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
A large-scale conservation effort drawing on ex situ populations was needed to restore this species to the wild.
  • Scientific name: Oryx dammah
  • Red List Status: Endangered
  • Population: 600 in the wild (estimation by end of November 2023)
  • Habitat: Sahelian grasslands

 

The scimitar-horned oryx is a flagship species for an entire community of desert wildlife, plans and habitats.
They are known for having long curved horns. They have a white coat with brown chest and black markings on their forehead and nose. They weight between 90 and 210 kg.
Scimitar-horned oryx become inactive in the heat of the day, seeking shade and digging out scrapes in the sand to reduce exposure to drying winds. They graze primarily during the early morning hours and the late evening into the night.
They can go for significantly long periods without water, making them uniquely adapted to their arid desert environment.

Beginning in 2008, Sahara Conservation spearheaded international efforts to develop a global strategy for the restoration of the scimitar-horned oryx and together with a large number of stakeholders developed a suite of tools for the selection of suitable conservation sites and the establishment of criteria critical for successful outcomes.
In 2013, following a series of workshops and feasibility studies led by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, Sahara Conservation, the Zoological Society of London and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve (OROAFR) in central Chad, was selected for the reintroduction program. This vast protected area set up in the 1960s specifically for the conservation of oryx and other desert species is one of the largest in the world and harbors some of the last remaining viable populations of dama and dorcas gazelles.
Under the vision and leadership of EAD, and in partnership with the Government of Chad, a carefully curated “World Herd” of scimitar-horned oryx was established in Abu Dhabi – the descendants of animals originally collected from Chad, and in collections and zoos in the US, Europe and the Middle East – would be reintroduced into their native range.

In March 2016, the first group of 25 scimitar-horned oryx were flown to Chad and transferred to pre-release pens in OROAFR for acclimatization. They were successfully released into the wild in August of the same year.
In September 2016, the first scimitar-horned oryx calf was born in Chad in at least 30 years. Since then, reintroduced oryx have produced more than 500 oryx calves.
Today, 285 oryx have been brought into Chad and the wild population is now estimated to be at least 600 animals in OROAFR.

POST-RELEASE MONITORING

EAD and Sahara Conservation brought together specialists from the relevant domains (husbandry, genetics, transport, veterinary, etc.) to work on the project. They agreed on and planned specific action together with the Government of Chad. Today, thanks to this fruitful collaboration, new monitoring methods have been developed to meet the specific needs of the project. These include tagging and satellite collaring of released animals, together with a whole suite of field-based activities to monitor the oryxs’ behaviour, dispersion, reproduction and feeding preferences.

ACHIEVEMENT

After more than three decades of absence, the scimitar-horned oryx is back in the wild and roaming freely in the grasslands of the Ouadi Rimé – Ouadi Achim Faunal Reserve.
On December 11th, 2023, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species announced the scimitar-horned oryx has been reclassified from Extinct in the Wild to ‘Endangered’.

The downlisting of the oryx marks a milestone in one of the most ambitious conservation programs ever undertaken and contributes to putting the Sahara and the Sahel more firmly on the global conservation agenda. The successful reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx is paving the way for the recovery of other critically endangered species, like the addax and the dama gazelle, which are already benefitting from the conservation efforts in Chad.
This fantastic result is the fruit of long-term, dedicated cooperation among partners. It also reminds us that efforts must continue to secure the long-term survival of what is still a threatened species. Further work is required to increase sustainability of the restored oryx population and to improve the management and integrity of the habitat it any many other species need to thrive in the wild.

ONGOING EFFORTS

The success of the project has helped expand the program in OROAFR, which now includes other Saharan species of the reserve such as Addax, Dama gazelle, and North African ostrich.
Combined efforts are underway to improve the management and protection of the reserve and build the conditions necessary for the mutually beneficial and successful development of both human and wildlife interests.

"Since 2000 the Scimitar-horned Oryx has been classified as "Extinct in the Wild" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. There have been no sightings for more than 25 years due to un-regulated hunting, loss of habitat and lack of resources for conservation. Leading the program which endeavours to reinstate a viable population of this once extinct-in-the-wild majestic creature in its home range of Chad is dreams come true. The releases will provide us with invaluable data to develop a self-sustaining wild population"

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi

A strong local support

Extinction Need Not Be Forever!

One of the most crucial components of the project is the collaboration with the local communities, the Government of Chad, the national wildlife authorities, administrative local authorities, and traditional leaders. Sahara Conservation regularly meets with them unformally during fieldwork, sensitization campaigns on the ground, or more officially through workshops and officials gatherings. As of today, these very important stakeholders help the project in various ways, from providing information on their oryx sightings or reporting on the existing livestock diseases to fighting bushfires or preventing poaching. Recruiting and training local staff is a big priority to Sahara Conservation. As of today, the project is very well seen and received. A lot of the locals, especially amongst the elders, have witnessed the extinction of the scimitar-horned oryx decades ago and are now thrilled to see the species back in the reserve.

LATEST
NEWS
ON THE
PROJECT

Resources

To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

How To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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Milestone: the scimitar-horned oryx downlisted from Extinct in the Wild to Endangered by IUCN

After nine years of the world’s most ambitious species reintroduction program, once ‘Extinct in the Wild’ scimitar-horned oryx now roam freely in the wild in Chad.

Sandscript #30 – Antelope darting protocols in Chad

Read here the fifth article of Sandscript 30th issue The tele-anesthesia and chemical immobilization of wild antelopes that the Government of Chad, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Sahara Conservation strive to conserve falls under the responsibility of EAD veterinarians. The ultimate goal is to safely anesthetize individual animals from a distance to […]

Well Spotted, Habib!

On a routine monitoring patrol in  late January 2021, SCF’s long term oryx monitoring team member Habib Ali, who has been with the project since the start, came across an untagged female oryx with a young calf at foot.  Judging by the horn development, he estimated the new calf was around one month old and […]

Vultures & Bustards Conservation

Surveys carried out in the Sahel over the past 20 years have shown the tremendous decline of previously common vultures, such as the hooded, Rüppell’s and lappet-faced, the Egyptian, white-backed and white-headed. Their decline is due to a combination of habitat loss, poisoning and persecution.

Sahelo-Saharan bustards are among the most endangered but least studied birds globally.

To reverse this silent extinction, Sahara Conservation and its partners have developed a program to improve the knowledge about their ecology, including their seasonal movements and to change the perception and knowledge by raising awareness with all the stakeholders.

Vultures Activities Overview

Sahara Conservation objective is to sensitize the local community about the vulture decline in Niger and Chad and work closely with the traditional hunters to get a better understanding about the factors contributing to the decline in vulture populations in Niger and the neighboring countries, by learning more about traditional hunting practices and trade networks from the local hunters.

Sahara Conservation has been monitoring lappet-faced vulture nests at Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve since 2008 and has collected many data on the vultures in Niger and Chad. In regards of the dramatic vulture decline in the Sahel, the need to monitor the breeding populations and understand the foraging ranges and resource areas for the adults of these populations and the survival rates of young birds in the breeding colony is more important than ever.

The Sahel and Sahara are on the flyway of the Egyptian vultures migration routes as they fly over Chad and Niger every year, from the Balkans and in particular from Bulgaria and Greece. The Egyptian Vulture is facing an important decline worldwide, and the Balkans have not been spared: from the hundreds of pairs historically present in the peninsula, about 70 pairs only are remaining, the population being victim of a 7% decline yearly for the past 30 years. To protect the species along its flyway, SaharaConservation is participating in the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project funded by the European Union and initiated as an innovative collaboration between several partners including the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds – BSPB.

SaharaConservation and the Nigerien wildlife authorities will gain a better understanding of the cultural attitudes of those responsible for vulture poaching, the traditional uses and value of vulture parts in the black market, and any local lore about the birds that can be factored into a plan to mitigate their decline.

THE ROLE OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Here again, engaging the local communities is crucial to protect the vultures and bustards species. Four traditional hunters, appointed by the Sultan of Zinder, were part of the team and their expertise was used to catch the birds carefully. Indeed, traditional hunters are associated with the City of Zinder’s Sultan, from whom they get their permission to hunt. Sahara Conservation has worked closely with the Sultan to explain the emergency facing wildlife and bustards in particular and to raise the fact that traditional hunters are key actors to prevent illegal hunting in Niger.In addition to successfully equipping the birds, critical information about the poachers, their habits and the way they hunt, has been collected during the mission thanks to the knowledge and the collaboration of the traditional hunters. Appropriate anti-poaching missions will be soon conducted by the rangers to tackle this issue.

INVESTIGATION ON THE GROUND

We asked questions to members of the local communities, traditional hunters, but also healers, and visited local markets in search of possible vultures for sale, as we knew they were used in traditional medicine. In addition to this very local use, we knew there were also poachers coming from Nigeria to kill numerous birds for sorcery and black magic ritual needs, something we repeatedly thought of as a an important possible cause for vulture’s decline in these areas of Niger (near Maradi and Zinder). The economy of Niger strongly relies upon its agriculture and livestock. We considered then the use of pesticides and veterinary drugs as a possible threat, since it may also be harmful to vultures. The main known Egyptian Vulture population so far in Niger lives in the Koutous Massif in the region of Zinder. That’s why we conducted most of our interviews in this area. We selected farmers and pastoralists with different profiles to have a representative sample and interviewed them.

DIRECT & INDIRECT OBSERVATION

We started to be active in the Kellé region -the Mont Koutous (highlighted with a yellow spot on the map)- seeking for birds and active nests. Direct and indirect observations were made indeed, and new nests presence recorded, allowing a better understanding of EVs exact distribution in Niger. Finally, from what has been observed in the field at that time of the year, most of the EVs recorded in the Koutous’ region were resident. One of the hosting countries is Niger, where they stay, particularly in the South-East. The areas where EVs can mostly be found are the region of Zinder and Maradi, near Nigeria. We hope that our project achievements will not only increase the knowledge about EVs distribution, but also more generally, will encourage studies and surveys of resident and migratory populations by tagging birds in Europe and Africa, including Niger and track them thanks to satellite/GPS transmitter.

SENSITIZATION

In Niger, vulture persecution and collection for traditional medicine markets are the main reported threats. To address these issues, Sahara Conservation has developed a public awareness campaign with the Nigerien wildlife authorities to raise awareness at the local, regional and national levels in Niger about the decline of vulture populations and their important role as scavengers and providers of ecosystem services.

Our objective is to keep sensitizing the local community about the vulture decline in Niger and Chad and work closely with the traditional hunters to get a better understanding about the factors contributing to the decline in lappet-faced vulture populations in Niger and the neighboring countries, by learning more about traditional hunting practices and trade networks from the local hunters. Sahara Conservation and the Nigerien wildlife authorities will gain a better understanding of the cultural attitudes of those responsible for vulture poaching, the traditional uses and value of vulture parts in the black market, and any local lore about the birds that can be factored into a plan to mitigate their decline.

Working On Bustards

Know Them More To Protect Them Better

Sahara Conservation aims to improve the knowledge about the distribution and the ecology of bustards in Chad and Niger. In Niger, Sahara Conservation has been collected many data on two species of bustard: the Nubian bustard and the Arabian bustard. However, there is still little known about the distribution and seasonal movements of these two species and in particular the Arabian bustard which is highly threatened by poaching. With partners, Sahara Conservation worked to improve information on genetics, distribution and seasonal movements of the Arabian bustard in Niger, using notably GPS/Satellite transmitters on the birds.

Sahara Conservation records systematically during the fieldwork direct sightings of all the bustard species and in particular the Nubian bustards and the Denham bustards in Chad during their seasonal migration in the wet season. Sahara Conservation aims to improve the knowledge about the distribution and the ecology of these two species in the near future by tagging them as well with GPS/Satellite transmitters.

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To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:

How To Help

Desert species are going through a silent extinction that Sahara Conservation wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to Sahara Conservation. Every act counts.

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Read Sandscript #32!

Dear readers, We are excited to share with you the 32nd issue of Sandscript, our publication dedicated to the unique biodiversity of the Sahara and the Sahel. This issue is celebrating the multiple plants that can be found in the Sahel and the work undertaken to improve our botanical knowledge in this neglected region.

Les vautours au Niger : quelles menaces et comment les combattre ?

Découvrez ci-dessous le 2e article de Sandscript #31

Migratory birds and conservation: a collaborative challenge case of Egyptian vultures

Read here the first article of Sandscript 31st issue

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