Idmi breeding and reintroduction
The Idmi, or mountain gazelle, used to roam across the whole Arabian Peninsula. De to habitat loss and illegal hunting, its populations have dwindled and this elegant animal is now classified as Vulnerable to Extinction. In the hope of boosting the Idmi’s numbers, ZSL has been running a breeding programme at the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre in Saudi Arabia.
The Idmi is one of several highly endangered species of gazelle being bred at King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre , managed by the ZSL on behalf of the Saudi National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development.
There is currently a breeding herd of over 180 individuals in breeding pens at the centre. These are set in a 600 hectare enclosure, where new gazelle can be reared carefully and given thorough health checks. The research centre carries out work on gazelle ecology and biology to develop our understanding of why they are in trouble and how to keep them successfully in captivity.
When Idmi need to be caught for veterinary work or to be released, an ingenious setup developed in New Zealand is used. Animals are enticed into a ring of poles attached to sheeting. When an animal enters the area, the poles are raised up and the sheeting corrals the gazelle, allowing it to be caught gently by hand.
We are breeding Idmi in order to restore the natural population, so groups of animals are being periodically released into the National Ibex Reserve. Animals to be released have to pass health checks and are fitted with radio collars so that their movements can be tracked at the research centre. This is both to keep an eye on them and to provide us with new scientific data. They are given some time in a pre-release area to let them get acquainted with their new surroundings before being let loose.
The first group of 17 idmi were released in 2007 , the first successful release of this species for over ten years. Over 100 gazelles have now been released into the National Ibex Reserve, and the project is going strong.
There are a number of other rare species of antelope and gazelle at the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre, such as the Arabian Oryx and rheem. They are also being bred as part of a wide effort to restore the biodiversity of this beautiful area.