Cheetah Cubs Born on Sir Bani Yas Island
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As its mission of wildlife and nature conservation continues to evolve, Sir Bani Yas Island, part of Abu Dhabi’s Desert Islands destination, welcomed four cheetah cubs as a result of a successful breeding programme. As the cheetah is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as extinct in the UAE, and vulnerable worldwide, the births are of particular significance to the continuation of the species globally and locally. Following the birth of the first ever hyena cubs in the wild in the UAE, this is yet another success for Sir Bani Yas Island in protecting and re-introducing previously extinct animals.
The cheetahs on Sir Bani Yas Island are from captive bred populations. The mother and father of the cubs, Safira and Gabriel were raised in His Excellency Sheikh Butti Al Maktoum’s Wildlife Centre, and the Sharjah Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, respectively. The cheetahs were brought to the island as part of TDIC’s conservation efforts which include breeding, re-wilding, releasing into the Arabian Wildlife Park to become an integral part of the natural population control for hoofed species on the island.
“As wildlife and nature conservation are part of our mandate, TDIC takes the responsibility of preserving the environment of the Western Region very seriously, and this is one of Sir Bani Yas Island’s main objectives,” said Lee Tabler, Chief Executive Officer of TDIC. “Through this and similar programmes we hope to continue to support Abu Dhabi in its quest to become an international tourism hub, while maintaining respect for the local heritage and environment.”
The Sir Bani Yas Island conservation team spends a great deal of time and effort into putting animals that are brought to the island from captive populations through a re-wilding programme and ensuring that the animals are trained to hunt and be self-sufficient before they are released into the Arabian Wildlife Park. Once they are released, the conservation team is removed completely from the animals’ day-to-day activities, and the cheetahs, Safira and Gabriel, are a telling example of what can be achieved through re-wilding as they hunt and fend for themselves without human interference.
“The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi is spearheading action to protect the rich wildlife of Abu Dhabi and its habitats, particularly endangered species, for the benefit of the country’s sustainable development and our future generations. And so, we regard these cheetah births as a landmark accomplishment for Abu Dhabi especially as this announcement comes soon after the births of the previously extinct striped hyenas on Sir Bani Yas Island,” said H.E Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD.”
Survival rates for cheetah cubs are very low both in the wild and captivity, and according to the conservation team, Safira, the cubs’ mother, is doing an impressive job of taking care of her cubs, even though she was raised by humans. She has not yet moved the cubs from their original birth place in a small cave in the mountains, which is known because Safira is fitted with a radio collar and can be tracked and monitored by the conservation team on the island.
Visitors to the island will soon be able to see the mother and her cubs venturing into the 4,100-hectare Arabian Wildlife Park, which is the only of its kind in the region bringing guests closer to nature by taking them through guided tours and educating them about Arabian free-roaming animals that inhabit it.
The flagship specie on Sir Bani Yas is the Arabian Oryx that was introduced in 1971 and was an unprecedented success, as the animal was declared extinct in the wild by 1972. Now, there are around 400 Arabian Oryx on Sir Bani Yas Island roaming freely in the park.