Taking time off the complex hydrocarbon operations, Saudi oil authorities have launched an ambitious project to construct a wildlife reserve near one of the world's largest oilfields in the most barren and deadliest desert on earth.
Officials at the state oil operator Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producing company, have been locked in a survey about endangered desert animals for the project which involves fencing off large areas and installing advanced cameras.
The project is close to Shaybah, one of the world's largest onshore oilfields which is located in Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert near the border with Abu Dhabi. The reserve will have an area of more than 600 square km, just less than Bahrain's area.
"The wild creature was just one of many species observed during a recent ecological survey in Shaybah, carried out by Saudi Aramco's Environmental Protection Department (EPD)," Aramco said in its Autumn billeting, Dimensions.
The survey, a first for Shaybah, was designed to help determine the biodiversity of the area, and was part of the groundwork for a wider plan to create a wildlife reserve.
"The results were fabulous," the bulletin quoted Dr. Ron Loughland, an environmental specialist with EPD, as saying. "We have recorded Sand Cat for the first time, which is a vulnerable species and is restricted to the Rub' al-Khali only.
There were also many sand foxes, possibly including the rare Vulpes zerda, which is adapted to high sand dunes….other mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates were also recorded in the survey."
The survey revealed that the proposed reserve area is more than just barren sand dunes and sabkha (salt flat), and is set to impact the design concepts for the reserve, 32-page the quarterly bulletin said.
The animals were captured as they went about their business in the depths of the night, it said, adding that remote sensoring cameras were strategically placed at locations the team suspected would be visited by various species.
"Yet the animals set most to benefit from the reserve were not captured on camera during the survey… they have been missing from the region for a number of years. That, however, is about to change," the report said.
According to the bulletin, in the 1970s the last oryx in the region were rescued and sent to San Diego in the United States for an intensive captive breeding program.
This action effectively helped save the oryx from extinction, and over the years they were released back into their natural environment in the Arabian Peninsula.
Aramco, which has pumped oil for nearly 80 years, said the proposed reserve, a joint project between the Shaybah Producing Department and EPD, is set to return oryx, sand gazelles, and other desert animals and plants to their natural home.