Facts and research taken from Ministry
of Regional Municipalities and Environment's "Guide to Oman's Protected
Ra's al Hadd
The Ra's al Hadd Turtle Reserve is located
in the Wilayat of Sur in the Sharqiya region of the Sultanate. Its total area covers
120km2 with a coastline of 42km. The Ra's al Hadd Peninsula is of great importance as it
attracts the largest number of nesting turtles in Oman. Between 6000 - 13000 turtles
migrate here annually from the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and the East African coast.
Contained within the reserve are many sites of historical importance such as Khawr al
Jamarah, Ra's al Jinz and Ra's al Khaba. Specialist research studies are carried out in
order to achieve the balance between protecting these areas and encouraging visitors. Many
tourists visit the area to observe the estimated 20,000 nesting turtles. Oman is one of
the most important sites for green turtles in the Indian Ocean.
Turtles spend most of their lives at sea
but return to the land to lay their eggs. The sex of the unhatched turtle depends on the
temperature of the sand in which the female lays her eggs.
Khawr al Jamarah contains a large mangrove
plantation and many coral reefs. This type of environment is rich in crustaceans and
plankton which attracts fish to spawn and in turn provides food for the hatchlings. The
mud flats flanking the khawrs provide migrating birds with essential food and shelter
during the winter months. Over 130 species have been recorded in the area. Other animals
found in the reserve include the Red Fox and the Arabian gazelle.
Ra's al Hadd is also home to a large
fishing community. The reserve boundary extends for one kilometre from the seashore into
the sea. In order to promote harmonious co-existence, two management areas have been
proposed. The first priority is given to the turtles and their nesting sites, but also
deals with the needs of the fishermen. Tourism and its adverse effects is also addressed
and strictly monitored. All visitors are given these instructions:
Obtain a visitor's permit from the
Director General of Nature Reserves, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment
or the Directorate General of Regional Municipalities and Environment, A'Sharqiyah Region
prior to visiting the reserve.
Do not spend the night on the beaches.
Litter or waste must not be disposed of
on the beaches or in the sea.
Do not approach the turtles as they
emerge from the sea, from digging nests or from laying eggs.
Do not use lights or torches during
visits to the nesting sites as this deters females from nesting and may also disorient
Do not use flash photography or create
loud noises at night.
The Jiddat al-Harasis desert region in al
Wusta is an area of great interest to scientists and environmentalists
alike. It is here that the last sightings of the
Arabian Oryx in the wild were recorded, whose
numbers were depleted drastically by hunters,
and where His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos established
the Arabian Oryx Reserve in 1974.
The project was assisted by the World Wildlife Fund,
the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources, and the Society
for the Preservation of Animals (SPA). In 1962,
the SPA had formed 'Operation Oryx' which aimed
to protect the animal from extinction. A SPA research
group flew to the Hadrahmut where they managed
to capture two male and one female Oryx. Other
Oryx were donated by Sheikh Jabir bin Abdullah
al Sabah from Kuwait, King Sa'ud bin Abd Al'Aziz
Aal Sa'ud from Saudi Arabia, and London Zoo, which
had received its Oryx from Sultan Said bin Taimur.
Nine Oryx were sent to Phoenix Park in Arizona,
which has a similar climate to the Jiddat al-Harasis,
and a breeding programme was started to reintroduce
sufficient numbers of the Oryx to the wild.
In 1980, the original nine
from Arizona, and together with four Oryx from Salalah, were transported by the Royal
Omani Air force to the Jiddat al-Harasis. Towards the end of 1980, a second group of
arrived from the US and in 1981, a third group consisting of four animals, joined them.
Thus, in January 1992, Sultan Qaboos realised his wish to see the Arabian
Oryx back in its
natural habitat, when the gates of the Oryx pens were opened and the first herd was
released into the wild.
Reintroduction of the
Oryx into the wild
begins by placing the animals in 100m2 pens until they become accustomed to the climate,
indigenous plants, and each other. The Oryx interact in hierarchies and form leaders,
which the others follow. The Oryx had to be taught where to find their food and initially
were given straw until they were confident enough to fend for themselves which usually
occurred after downpours of rain, when food becomes more abundant. Observation of the
was carried out by a team of guards who tracked the beasts for up to 10km and collated
information on their habits and haunts.
The Arabian Oryx is a creature well suited
to the arid conditions of the desert. It is able to go without water for up to 22 months,
drinking only the dew from the Samr and Ghaf trees. Its white coat provides perfect
camouflage except when it wishes to be seen; then it will climb to the top of the hills
and the sun's reflection on its coat means it can be seen for up to 3km. The
travel for long distances at between 4 - 6km/hour. The longest recorded distance the
animal has travelled is 155km. Its average weight is 50 - 70kg and it has a life
expectancy of 13 - 17 years in the wild.
The sanctuary is home to a number of other wild animals found in Oman. The
Arabian Gazelle is common in the desert, but due to superb camouflage, is sometimes rather
difficult to see. The Reem Gazelle will also visit the area, but it is more at home in the
sand dunes. This is a larger beast than the Arabian Gazelle and more nervous, taking
flight at disturbance. Nubian ibex are a fairly common sight in the rocky outcrops of the
Jiddat. It is a goat-like beast with huge curved horns. Smaller mammals found in the area
include the jerboas, gerbils, spiny mice, Arabian hares and the sand fox. Rare animals,
such as the caracal lynx and Arabian wolves, have been spotted by the reserve's guards.
Al Saleel National
The Al Saleel National Park, covering an
area of 220km2, is located in the Wilayat of Al Kamil w'al Wafi in the Sharqiyah Region of
The park mainly consists of acacia woodland
and provides a safe habitat for many of Oman's indigenous mammals. There are three main
areas to the park: the first is the alluvial plain covered in acacias; the second consists
of the wadis in the mountains and the third is the sparsely vegetated hills and rocky
outcrops which form the northern boundaries and the higher elevations.
As well as the acacia trees (acacia
tortilis), the reserve also contains Acacia ehrenbergiana, Zizphus spinachristi and
the shrub Maresaraas (Maerua oblongifolia) which has cream, scented flowers which
bloom in summer.
There are presently over 40 Arabian
Gazelles roaming through the park. Other mammals include the rare Gordon's Wild Cat,
wolves and a small number of Red Foxes (Vulpes arabica).
Future plans for the park aim to achieve
sustainable use of the vegetation for feeding Arabian Oryx and the Reem Gazelle. These
animals will be introduced once the vegetation improves. More Arabian Gazelles may be
introduced later in order to enhance the genetic base of the species within the park.
Studies will be carried out to establish permanent watering points for the animals,
enabling visitors to view them.
Islands Nature Reserve
This group of nine islands lies to the
north of Muscat, along the coast of the wilaya of Seeb and Barka. The islands cover a
total area of 203km2 and can only be reached by boat. Many migratory birds nest here in
the summer and there are various species of fish found in the coral reefs, making the
islands attractive to scuba divers. Large numbers of Hawksbill turtles, a globally
endangered species, lay their eggs here which enhances the islands' environmental
importance. The green turtles also nest on the islands' sandy beaches.
islands are made from limestone rocks and coral reefs. At their northern side, they slope
steeply under water to depths of more than 25 metres. To the south, they shelve gently
into the sea and are flanked by extensive coral reefs.
Thousands of marine birds nest on the
islands throughout the year, including terns, ospreys and Red-billed Tropic birds. The
islands which have been turned into reserves are free from predators such as foxes, cats
and dogs. There are two species of snakes living on the islands, whilst the sea contains
The Dimaaniyat Islands Reserve has been
established primarily to conserve the coral reefs and to provide safe nesting conditions
for turtles and birds. The reserve encourages environmental research and ensures
sustainable use of the marine environment by local fishermen.
The following rules must be obeyed in order to
visit the islands:
*Obtain a permit from the Director General of
*Camp only on Jibaal al Kibaar and al Joon.
*Light campfires only at designated areas or
in disposable sets.
*Do not collect or harm coral reefs or any
*Do not disturb nesting turtles by touching
or approaching them whilst they move on the beaches, or touch, collect or move their eggs.
*Do not disturb the nests and eggs of
*Do not bring plants or seeds to the islands.
*Do not bring cats, dogs or any other animals
to the islands.
*Do not cut the trees and grass of the
*Fire and lights must be extinguished at
This reserve is in the Governorate of
Dhofar and covers an area of 4500km2. It is predominantly made of limestone highlands
rising from the coastal plains. Jebel Samhan is a range of craggy peaks, which are
separated by wadis and canyons. Hasik village, accessible only from the sea, lies on a
small gravel area east of the Jebel. The sea has eroded much of the coastline and the
limestone cliffs are dramatically sculptured and undercut at the base.
canyons are filled with deep pools, and with the varied plant life, the area provides
perfect habitat for the likes of the Arabian Leopard, Nubian Ibex, Arabian Gazelle,
Striped Hyenas, Caracal, wild cats, foxes and wolves. The steep cliffs make ideal breeding
sites for rare species of birds and the surrounding waters provide food for Masked Boobies
and Socotra Cormorants. Shrimps, abalone, whales, Green turtles and Loggerhead turtles are
also found in the waters.
Jebel Habrer receives the monsoon mists for
which Dhofar is famous. Due to the humidity and rainfall, it is the only Arabic location
of the African tree Papea capensis.
There is no resident human population in
Jebel Samhan, although it is used by shepherds for grazing their animals, and locals
gather frankincense from the trees in the wadis. These activities will be allowed to
continue in a sustainable way.
The Khawrs Reserve
of Dhofar Coast
The khawrs and springs of the Dhofar coast
contain many different species of wildlife. Historically, the khawrs have been natural
harbours whilst the freshwater springs have provided water for settlements.
khawrs contain large numbers of fish, in particular
edible milkfish and mullet. These fish have a
high tolerance to freshwater and can adapt to
decreasing levels of salinity. Over 200 species
of migrating birds rest and feed at the khawrs.
It is 0.6km2, with a wide sandbar separating it from
the sea. It has been fenced in to protect the vegetation and mangrove
trees have been planted along its perimeter. The local communities are
allowed to cut fodder from the khawrs at restricted times of the year,
thus allowing sustainable use of its plant resources. It is a safe haven
for birds and plans are being considered to allow access for bird
It is 0.6km2 with an open expanse of water running
for 1km. The khawr is an important breeding ground for birds but on the
west bank, a zone has been identified for recreation purposes and will
be a managed picnic area. Over 80 species of birds have been recorded at
this khawr and there are a number of species of fish living in the
It is 1km2 and located near the
archaeological site of Baleed which is included in the protected area. This is the first
'archaeological park' in Oman and it aims to integrate its historical aspect with the
natural beauty of the wildlife. There are three fundamental goals to the park: first, it
aims to preserve the natural resources; second, it aims to develop an historical
educational programme for visitors; and third, it aims to attract visitors to the area.
It is within Salalah's city limits and provides a
green belt area to enhance the city. The khawr is only 0.16km2 and has
been recently protected due to damage caused by local inhabitants using
it as a dumping ground for household and garden waste. It is
acknowledged as an important breeding site for different birds.
Khawr Qurm a'Sagheer and Khawr Qurm al Kabeer
They contain dense thickets of mangroves. The
combined area of the mangroves is 0.175km2. Over-grazing by cattle was
leading to destruction of the mangroves. Thus the khawrs became
conservation areas. They are fenced in and whilst cattle owners are
allowed to harvest the grasses, the animals are not allowed to graze.
There are nine species of fish in the waters and 13 species of plants in
the protected sites.
It is 1km2 and located on the Salalah-Taqah road.
Within the perimeter fence are a number of archaeological sites. The
khawr has great biological importance and has over 44 species of micro
invertebrates, 66 species of birds, 26 species of fish and more than 70
species of plants. There are no mangroves at this khawr due to its low
salinity. Access for people and animals will be restricted and the
fences will be maintained in order to keep livestock from straying
It is 1.07km2 and located to the
west of Taqah. It is fed by a freshwater spring and has permanent access to the sea.
Because of the mix of water in the khawr, it supports both halophytic and brackish
vegetation. The most common plants are phragmites, typha, schoenoplectus and
paspalum. There is also a thicket of reeds and reed mace, which provides shelter for
breeding birds. Around 20 species of fish are found in these waters. The khawr is
protected to ensure that its natural resources are sustained by the local
community. It is designated as a recreation area and the villagers are allowed to harvest
fodder for their livestock.
It is the largest of the protected khawrs, at 8.2km2.
It is situated along the Salalah coast and receives the main influence
of the monsoon. It is an area famed for the city ruins of Samharam. In
the past, the khawr and its surroundings have been used by the local
community for grazing their livestock. However, overgrazing became a
severe problem and there are still signs of damage remaining. A
management plan has proposed protection of the khwar and an adjoining
area of land, but will still allow for sustainable fishing and the
development of limited visitor facilities. Included in this plan is the
provision of an information centre at the archaeological site.
This area is to be fenced in and once there
is a marked recovery in the vegetation, various species of indigenous wild animals will be
Khawr Rawri is an important site for nesting
birds and some 100 species have been recorded in the area. Mammals, such as desert foxes,
have been spotted, and turtles nest on the beaches. More than 20 species of plants and 11
species of fish are found here.
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