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Release of Nubian Ibex in the Asir

In December 2021, we received a group of 15 Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana) from the captive breeding of King Khaled Wildlife Research Center, 5 males and 10 females. Eight of the 10 females gave birth in March -April 2022 raising the group size to 23 individuals. After some long delays, administrative and logistic obstacles, we finally received our order of satellite radio collars in December 2022, deployed them on the Ibex in January. And after few additional weeks to agree on a release date with officials, we finally got the green line to release the Ibex, and the date was fixed for Monday 27th of February.

On Friday 24th, I received a call from Mohammed Sandoka, the Vet from KKWRC asking how the release was going to be organized and advising putting the Ibex in the recapture pen, what he called “bouma”. I followed his advice, and informed Ahmed Hanash, our animal keeper to plan putting all Ibex, or at least most of them in the recapture pen on Saturday or Sunday.

On Sunday, Ahmed didn’t manage to isolate the Ibex, as there were some disturbances around the enclosure by some labors of Saif company, doing some cleaning in King Abdullah National Park.

On Monday early morning, Ahmed managed to isolate 18 Ibex in the recapture pen, but still 5 were remaining in the main enclosure.

At 7:30, I drove with Srdan to KANP, reached there around 8:00. Dr Naif, the chief Vet from KKWRC, who we were planning to meet at the main gate of KANP, has not yet reached. We drove to the Ibex enclosure, met Ahmed Hanash there, and continued to the Red Rock to check the settings of tents for the official ceremony. Work was going on, and nearly ready.

We turned back to the main gate. The gate keeper informed us that Dr Naif and his team had just arrived and entered the park. We met them 10min later at the pre-release enclosure.

We discussed the plan for the release and started installing a tilder mesh net between the door of the recapture pen, and the main gate, so that Ibex have no choice than to directly run out of the enclosure, as we will open the sliding door of the recapture pen.

We instructed everybody to leave the area, not letting any cars on the asphalt road, and to move to Red Rock. Only people required for the release could stay.

At 10:25 our CEO arrived at the coffee tent on Red Rock, shortly followed by the head of security forces, the CEO of ASDA, the vice-president of Asir region. Ahmed Boug, representing NCW, arrived 5 min later.

We sat 10-15 minutes, and started walking down to the enclosure. Despite informing attendees to remain at the Red Rock, 20-30 people followed the CEO going down, as well as 4-5 cars.

In 5-10 minutes, we planted 3 Arar trees, that were given by NCW – Raydah to Soudah for reforestation, 3 out of 1500 trees to be delivered.

Everybody headed to the main gate of the pre-release enclosure. Instead of gathering outside the enclosure and having the CEO opening the door of the enclosure, everybody wen tinside, and formed a wall on both side of the exit of the recapture pen, along the fence, and along the tilder net. Photographers also took place on the side, but nobody stayed further down in the way. As soon as the sliding door was open, the whole group of 18 Ibex quickly run out of the enclosure, turned around, and went on the back side, as observed by Rayan from the Red Rock. Nothing went according to plan, but everything went well.

Everybody headed back to the Red rock. I stayed behind with Ahmed Hanash, and 2 NCW labors, to try to puch the 5 ibex remaining in the enclosure, but they refused to go out, only running back to the small thicket of bushes. As some females were pregnant, we didn’t insist to puch them, and let them rest, postponing their release for later.

I climbed back to Red Rock by a short cut track, and joined the main group of attendees at the small coffee tent, for some discussions, tea, coffee and a few snacks. Around 12:00, we went to the lunch tent, some 500m farther on the other side of the Red Rock, Where we had a nice lunch, goat capsah. Ahmed Boug spoke a lot to our CEO.

After the lunch, around 12:45, I chat 5 minutes with Ahmed Boug, requiring mainly when we could organize the transfer of Mountains gazelles, and agree to take contact again after 10 days.

Rayan and I went back to the enclosure, met Ahmed Hanash there to discuss plan on how to release the 5 remaining Ibex. We decided to let them rest for the day, and attempt to bring them out, by attracting them out with food, on the following morning.

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