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13th Conservation Workshop for the Biodiversity of Arabia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2012

Philip Seddon*
Department of Zoology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
Mike Knight
South African National Parks, and Department of Zoology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Humewood, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
David Mallon
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and Co-Chair, IUCN/Species Survival Commission Antelope Specialist Group
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Conservation News
Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2012

The 13th Annual Conservation Workshop for the Biodiversity of Arabia was held at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (BCEAW) in Sharjah, UAE, on 7–9 February 2012. This regional forum brought together 106 participants representing UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Yemen and Oman, and from the USA, UK, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, Italy and New Zealand. The Sharjah workshops are hosted by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) of the Government of Sharjah, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed al Qassimi.

The Workshop continued the parallel processes of protected areas and species-focused themes established since 2006. The protected areas theme looked at two aspects raised during management effectiveness evaluations in previous years: engagement of local communities and the related issue of protected area zonation. Country reports from the region (Oman, UAE, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia) indicated a wide range of levels of engagement with local stakeholders. Most commonly the level of participation by local communities in the creation and management of protected areas involves consultation, top-down benefit sharing and the development of management agreements, rather than full co-management or the devolution of authority and responsibility to community groups. The most common regional protected area governance types are government managed protected areas, particularly with a national, federal or local ministry, or a government delegated NGO in sole charge. Least common are private protected areas and community conserved areas, although traditional local resource management structures in Saudi Arabia (hema) could be revived to fit this model. Key challenges and obstacles to greater community management of protected areas were identified and some regionally relevant approaches and guiding principles recognized.

Protected area case studies revealed a range of zonation schemes being proposed or applied, namely: core zones of strict protection, wider use zones facilitating visitor access and low-impact nature-based tourism, and buffer zones within the protected areas to minimize negative impacts from surrounding developments and threats. The need to integrate protected area zoning into regional land-use planning initiatives was stressed as an important means of reducing threats to protected areas. Having a well-articulated vision and objectives for the protected area facilitated the development of appropriate zonation plans. Similarly, key challenges and guiding principles associated with protected area zonation were identified by workshop participants.

The species-focused theme of the Workshop entailed a regional Red List assessment of 150 reptile species of the Arabian Peninsula, in collaboration with the Conservation International/IUCN Biodiversity Assessment Unit, and involving several regional and international experts. Only eight species were listed in one of the three categories of threat (four Endangered and four Vulnerable), with 21 species considered Data Deficient, and the remainder (121) listed as Near Threatened (NT) or Least Concern (LC).

For the first time the Workshop included a technical training component, with 2 days of hands-on exercises, regional case studies, and equipment assessments relating to the application, coordination and standardization of camera trapping for conservation management.