Two weeks ago Flamingo Land sent two members of staff, Sam de Belle, Head Keeper of Paddocks, and Andrew Marshall, Director of Conservation Science, to the Sahara Conservation Fund meeting in Agadir, Morocco.
The Sahara Conservation Fund works in the Sahara and Sahelian grassland to conserve both habitats, including the native wildlife and natural resources that are there.
Flamingo Land participated in the meeting because here at the zoo we hold two of the high profile species that they work with; the Addax, which is Critically Endangered, and the Scimitar Horned Oryx, which is Extinct in the Wild. The Sahara Conservation Fund has started reintroduction programmes in a couple of nature reserves in Africa for the Oryx. This is a project that Flamingo Land is very interested in as we have an active breeding group. We have six females; two are due to give birth in June and three will be old enough to breed next year. The youngest is a female that was born here last year.
The Addax still survives naturally in one area in the wild and has also been reintroduced to a few sites. At Flamingo Land we currently have a group of males but would like to be involved in the breeding at some point.
Both species are co-ordinated by a stud book keeper. This person is responsible for keeping all of the animals on the breeding programme in the most appropriate zoo so the gene pool remains as diverse as possible.
The meeting took place over three days, including two days of presentations from doctors, researchers and professors from around the world on a variety of topics including re-release programmes, stock genetics and human populations in re-release areas. Dr Marshall gave a presentation on work done by the Circle Research Centre at Flamingo Land.
The third day was spent at the Souss Massa reserve just outside Agadir. The delegates were treated to a drive through the park where they have Addax, Oryx, Red Necked Ostrich and Dorcas Gazelle, to name but a few. Sam de Belle said: “The scenery was amazing with the scrublands, sand dunes and sea all rolling into one fantastic picture. Add to that the Oryx herd roaming past us and it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.”
For more details see www.saharaconservation.org