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Swiss group helps to save desert wildlife

A Swiss group, the Animal Management Consultancy, is helping to save a threatened species - the Arabian leopard - from extinction. It is being bred in captivity in one of the group's many projects in the Arabian Gulf.

The company's activities now range from captive breeding to running educational wildlife facilities in Sharjah, one of the emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates.

Peter Wright, manager of the Animal Management Consultancy, told swissinfo that the Arabian leopard had become endangered as humans depleted its prey through hunting.

"We set up the breeding programme to establish a strong genetic base for the leopard in captivity so if it becomes extinct in the wild we can then reintroduce them," Wright said.

One problem facing the group is that when people think of wildlife, they envisage big game in Africa - not the deserts of Arabia.

"Even people born and bred here don't realise about the wealth of wildlife out there in the desert," said Wright. "Because animals camouflage themselves so well and come out mainly at night local people forget they have such a varied group of animals here."

In an effort to counteract this, the Animal Management Consultancy has also become involved in raising awareness about wildlife in the region.

"Our function as consultants for the Sharjah government has been to develop visual displays and the general lay-out of the Arabian Wildlife Centre in Sharjah," explained Wright.

The centre, funded by the Sharjah government, attracts some 20,000 visitors a month, mainly schoolchildren.

However the group is also involved in more commercial projects, breeding and training falcons to control pigeons which populate the office blocks and skyscrapers of Dubai.

Another Swiss man involved in the group is Christian Gross, who runs the group, and has been involved in wildlife issues in the Gulf for more than 20 years.

"Gross has always been a keen falconer and has even written a book on the subject," said Wright. "So when we became aware that the feral pigeon problem had got so bad in Dubai, and that poisoning or shooting them wasn't an option, we decided to develop falconry patrols for the buildings."

With its innovative approach to commercial and consultative projects, along with captive breeding programmes, the Animal Management Consultancy has created a niche for itself within the United Arab Emirates.

by Tom O'Brien


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