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King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority to protect griffon vultures

RIYADH: The King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority is working to protect endangered griffon vultures at its sites in the Kingdom.

Spanning an area of 130,700 sq. km, the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve is the largest nature reserve in the Middle East, and also comprises three other main reserves in the north and northwest of the Kingdom: Al-Tubaiq Reserve, Al-Khanfa Reserve and Hurra Al-Hurra Reserve.

The site is home to a variety of archaeological monuments, terrains, natural resources and habitats.

Several months ago, the reserve monitored a large number of griffon vulture nesting sites. The number of griffon vultures is reported to be decreasing across the Arabian Peninsula. However, the griffon vulture is not endangered globally, according to the classification of the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The griffon vulture, which typically weighs between six to 11 kilograms with a wingspan of 2.2-2.55 meters, and a length of between 90-150 centimeters, inhabits the central and southern regions of the Kingdom.

The species lives in cliffs, rocky crevices and caves, and builds nests from deadwood.

Afnan Al-Anazi, a media official from the reserve’s development authority, told Arab News that officials are creating permanent protection programs by creating an environment “to host, monitor and evaluate them (griffon vultures) by using satellites, which would help track their behaviors, population and feeding areas, in addition to protecting them from hunting, collision and electrocution.”

Al-Anazi added that the reserve launched a field survey project for birds to estimate population numbers and categorize groups into resident, migratory or visiting species. The survey will also help researchers understand migration paths and engage in continuous monitoring as well as follow-up programs.

The reserve also plans to develop birdwatching tourism programs. “There is a special initiative to create awareness among the local community about the importance of birds in general … and the importance of eagles and their role in providing very important services to the ecosystem,” Al-Anazi said.

The griffon vulture plays a major role in maintaining ecosystem balance by feeding on the carcasses of dead animals such as camels, sheep, goats, ibex and deer, which it spots when soaring at high altitudes.

Al-Anazi said that the the process of feeding on carcasses prevents the spread of diseases and infection, “preventing and protecting us from many diseases caused by these carcasses.”

The efforts of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve, Al-Anazi said, are focused on helping birds reproduce by “achieving a sustainable ecological balance by protecting biodiversity, especially endangered species.”

The female griffon vulture typically lays one egg each year. It cares for the chick over an incubation period of 48-54 days.

The National Center for Wildlife Development and the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority previously signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at enhancing cooperation in the development of wildlife, biodiversity and sustainability.

The agreement also seeks to work on the resettlement of endangered local animals in the reserve through the center’s breeding facilities, and conduct follow-ups and joint environmental studies to exchange information, knowledge and experience.

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