Sunday, January 15, 2006

Shell sponsors leopards conservation expedition

Shell sponsors leopards conservation expedition

MUSCAT — >From sponsoring research on endangered indigenous species of dolphins, whales and turtles to cleanup operations on local beaches and reefs, Shell Oman has always taken an active role in environment conservation and promotion of eco-tourism in the Sultanate. The arrival of Dr Matthias Hammer, renowned biologist and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, at the head of a Shell Helix co-sponsored Biosphere Expeditions team, in far north of Oman, marks the beginning of another significant endeavour.

“At Shell Oman, the environment is one of our top priorities. That is why, we are especially proud to be part of the acclaimed Biosphere Expeditions in Oman,” said Irshad Lawati, managing director of Shell Oman Marketing Company.

Biosphere Expeditions is an award-winning non-profit wildlife conservation organisation founded by Dr Hammer in 1999. Oman is the ninth destination for Biosphere Expeditions, which is universally renowned for its ground-breaking projects that combine adventure, conservation and education.

Biosphere Expeditions is working with the office of the adviser for conservation of the environment (Diwan of Royal Court) in looking for evidence of Arabian leopards in the remote and rugged mountains of Musandam, while also promoting tourism in support of conservation.

The Arabian leopard is the last surviving species of big cats on the Arabian Peninsula. Once present throughout the mountainous regions of Arabia, Palestine and Jordan, the species is currently listed as ‘critically endangered’ by the World Conservation Union, and sightings of the elusive feline in recent years has been limited to the mountains of the Dhofar region of Oman and parts of Yemen.

The expedition team to Musandam includes ordinary individuals and scientific personnel who will look for evidence of leopard presence, survey hunting hotspots like waterholes, and talk to local inhabitants about possible sightings. The expedition will also attempt to film the Arabian leopard in its natural habitat.

Besides the leopard, the study will encompass species like the Arabian Tahr, Blanford’s fox, Red fox, Caracal lynx, wildcat, Brandt’s hedgehog, Ethiopian hedgehog, White-tailed mongoose, Egyptian vulture, Golden eagle and the Chukar — a member of the partridge family. The expedition will be conducted in partnership with Shell Oman as well as the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of Tourism.

The project has important implications for Oman’s wildlife conservation efforts, and for the country’s aspirations as an international destination for eco-tourism.

“We see a great opportunity with Biosphere Expeditions to finally establish the status of the Arabian leopard in Musandam — the only remaining area of Oman, outside the Dhofar region, where the leopard may still be present. We also see an opportunity to encourage sustainable forms of travel hand-in-hand with research. Thereby, ensuring that the benefit of biodiversity conservation reaches the local communities,” said Hadi Musalam Al Hikmani of the office of the adviser for conservation of the environment (Diwan of Royal Court).

Hadi’s special experience in surveying, camera-trapping and satellite tracking of leopards in Dhofar as part of the Arabian Leopard Survey project is key to the success of the expedition.

http://www.timesofoman.com/newsdetails.asp?newsid=24444&pn=local

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rescuenewscubs.htm

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