Gazelle conservation breeding in Saudi Arabia

Wild oryx, King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre, Saudi Arabia


King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre (KKWRC) is one of the largest gazelle breeding centres in the world. ZSL managed KKWRC for the Saudi Wildlife Authority from 1987 until 2016, making it our oldest field-based conservation project. We worked directly with The Saudi Wildlife Authority and have enjoyed 28 years of support and success within the Kingdom. 

The Living Collection (our breeding population of gazelles) acted as a genetic reservoir for a number of highly threatened species, and as a source to supplement wild populations. We ran a number of long-term monitoring programmes within Protected Areas, as well as active research into mammal biodiversity, using the latest remote camera technology. 

The KKWRC laboratory carries out a range of screening and disease diagnosis, and houses one of the most important collections of biological samples in the Arabian Peninsula.

Wild oryx running in King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre, Saudi Arabia


Why we were there

ZSL provided the Saudi Wildlife Authority with expertise in the captive management of threatened species, and provided conservation support, training and assistance in monitoring the extensive Protected Area network within Saudi Arabia. 

Early involvement focused on the conservation breeding, reintroduction and post-release monitoring of animals into a range of Protected Areas. Since the successful reintroductions, ZSL focused on providing applied conservation support through training Protected Area Managers and field rangers in survey techniques, providing management advice and regular supplementary reintroductions. 


Key Achievements and Goals

ZSL has been involved in various projects over the years including:

  • Long-term captive management and breeding of four key threatened species (Arabian and Sand Gazelles, Nubian Ibex and Arabian Oryx)
  • Successful reintroduction and monitoring of Arabian and Sand Gazelles into the Empty Quarter, a vast area of desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula
  • Successful reintroduction of Arabian Gazelles into the Ibex Reserve Protected Area
  • Long term monitoring of Nubian Ibex and Arabian Gazelle populations in the Ibex Reserve Protected Area
  • A camera trap survey within the Ibex Reserve Protected Area to assess the diversity of small and medium-sized mammals
  • National genetic survey of the Arabian Wolf (Canis lupus arabs)
  • Contributing to the understanding of the complex area of gazelle genetics
  • Periodic censuses of gazelle populations in protected areas such as The Farasan Islands, The Ibex Reserve, Uruq Bani Ma’arid and Harrat al Harrah
  • Collection and archiving of more than 75,000 biological samples from a range of Saudi Arabian wildlife.



Celebrating conservation success 

After 28 years, ZSL has handed back the reins at the King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre (KKWRC) to the Saudi Wildlife Authority, which will oversee future management of the centre.

The Centre has delivered some tremendous results over the years, including reintroducing two species of gazelle to the Uruq Bani M'Arid protected area; a region from which they had disappeared. Over the years, ZSL have been working on cutting edge research and conservation at the Centre and we have been responsible for the only successful reintroductions of wild antelopes anywhere in the world.

We have built a firm foundation to restore and safeguard wildlife in the country for years to come and ZSL wishes the Centre more successes in the future. 

Project information

Key Species

  • Arabian Gazelle (Gazella Arabica) and the Farasan Islands subspecies (G.a.farasanii).
  • Sand Gazelle (Gazella subguttorosa marica)
  • Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)
  • Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx)

People involved

  • Dr. Robert Sheldon: Director, KKWRC
  • Mr. Mohammed Sandouka: Living Collections Manager, KKWRC
  • Dr. Chris Barichievy: Conservation Scientist, KKWRC
  • Mr Tim Wacher: Conservation Scientist, ZSL
  • Dr. Gian Lorenzo D'Alterio: Head Veterinarian, KKWRC
  • Dr.Naif Al-Hanoosh: Veterinarian, KKWRC/SWA
  • Mr. Fekadu Desta: Clinical Veterinarian, KKWRC
  • Mr. Willy Macasero: Laboratory Technician, KKWRC
  • Mr. Fadl a Fadl: Office Manager, KKWRC
  • Mr. Khaled Al-Ageel: Logistics Manager, KKWRC/SWA
  • Dr Raj Amin

Partners and Sponsors

Partners: Saudi Wildlife Authority
Sponsors: Saudi Wildlife Authority