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16th International Conservation Workshop for Arabia's Biodiversity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2015

Philip Seddon*
Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Mike Knight
South African National Parks, and Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Gerhard Steenkamp
Department of Companion Animal Clinical Studies, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Ondeserspoort, South Africa
David Mallon
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and IUCN/Species Survival Commission Conservation Planning Sub-Committee
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Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2015 

The 16th Annual International Conservation Workshop for Arabia's Biodiversity was held at the American University of Sharjah, in conjunction with the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, during 2–5 February 2015. This forum brought together over 150 participants from UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen and Oman, and from the UK, South Africa, Hungary, Australia and New Zealand. The Sharjah workshops are hosted by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority of the Government of Sharjah, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

The 16th Workshop had four themes. The protected areas and planning theme looked at the assessment and management of human–wildlife conflict; a species assessment theme conducted a review of the conservation status, threats and management of marine turtles in the Arabian Peninsula region; a veterinary theme looked at the issue of herbivore health care; and a technical theme examined aspects of electronic data capture.

The topic of human–wildlife conflict had been raised as an important regional issue at previous workshops, in particular concerns about predation of livestock by native carnivores. In a series of sessions facilitated by Brandon Anthony of the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, working groups looked at case studies relevant to the Arabian Peninsula: livestock predation and perceived threats to people from the leopard, wolf, hyaena, caracal and jackal; commensalism by Hamadryas baboons; and issues concerning goats in and around protected areas. The working groups looked at: identification of stakeholders; environmental and social risk factors; the perceived and real costs of conflict; policy and management options; contextual challenges; monitoring and evaluation; and research needs. It was recommended that stakeholder engagement strategies and tools for social scientists need to be further developed for the region in taking this subject further.

The species assessment theme covered the status and conservation of the five species of marine turtles (four of them breeding) in the Arabian Peninsula. Topics covered included identification of key nesting and foraging sites, a threat assessment at regional and national levels, research needs, identification of stakeholders, and listing of recent and current turtle conservation projects. A vision and a goal for marine turtle conservation were developed along with a set of objectives to provide a conservation strategy framework for integration into existing initiatives, such as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals Indian Ocean and South-east Asia Memorandum of Understanding.

The veterinary theme's main focus was herbivore healthcare and in particular the state of emerging and re-emerging diseases in the region. Moritz van Vuuren, a veterinary virologist from the faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, gave presentations on diseases in the region. During two interactive sessions diagnoses and decision making in relation to viral diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, lumpy skin disease, Peste des Petits ruminants and others were discussed. Further presentations on disease outbreaks in the region were followed by lectures and interactive sessions on post mortem examination and cytology. The latter sessions were led by June Williams, a pathologist from the Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria. The veterinary theme closed with presentations on biosecurity and primary healthcare as well as some pointers on chemical capture.

The Workshop included a technical training component facilitated by Chenay Simms of the South African National Parks Scientific Services, comprising a day of hands-on exercises, regional case studies, and equipment assessments relating to the selection and application of electronic data capture, including smart-phone apps, global positioning systems, remote sensing and drones.