By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Jabal Masouda has been removed from Jordan’s list of proposed protected areas following local community pressure, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) announced on Thursday.

According to RSCN Director Yehya Khaled, plans to announce Jabal Masouda – a region near Petra home to locally and internationally threatened species – as a nature reserve were “dropped” over land disputes.

“There have been objections from the local community in Jabal Masouda, because the tribes claim that the area includes tribal wajihat lands,” Khaled told The Jordan Times yesterday.

Wajihat, lands allocated to Jordanian bedouin tribes in the pre-state era for grazing and cultivation purposes for nomadic tribes, was partially documented by authorities during the British mandate and continue to be a source of ongoing disputes.

Khaled claimed that a lack of cooperation on the part of the Petra Archaeological Park also delayed the announcement of Jabal Masouda as a nature reserve, eventually leading it to being scrapped.

“The land which the Petra authority allocated for the Jabal Masouda nature reserve doesn’t meet the general goal of a nature reserve,” Khaled said.

Jabal Masouda, located in Maan Governorate, is named after the highest mountain peak in the area. The site, with an elevation ranging between 180 metres and 1,500 metres above sea level, contains three bio-geographical zones – Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian and Saharo-Arabian.

The area, part of Al Sharah range, is characterised by steep mountains and seven types of vegetation, ranging from juniper in the highlands to sand dunes and acacia trees along the valleys in the lowlands, according to the RSCN.

Several animals and migratory birds take refuge in Jabal Masouda, according to the society, which has registered the Red-rumped Wheatear and the Egyptian vulture, a globally endangered species, in the area.

The RSCN has reported 65 types of birds in Jabal Masouda, 40 of which nest in the area, in addition to recently recording the Blanford fox (Vulpes Cana), a locally and globally threatened mammal.

Despite falling short of its nature reserve goals, the RSCN is expected to continue cooperation with Petra authorities to regulate land use at Jabal Masouda, Yahya indicated.

Meanwhile, other locations in the southern region are currently under consideration by RSCN ecologists as replacement candidates for Jabal Masouda.

Jordan is home to eight nature reserves: Dana, Azraq, Shomari, Mujib, Ajloun, Wadi Rum, Dibbeen and the Yarmouk River Basin.

Jabal Masouda was initially named as one of several sites as part of the Kingdom’s aims to double the number of nature reserves under the Integrated Ecosystem Management-Jordan Rift Valley Project, launched in 2008.