By Hana Namrouqa

MUJIB NATURE RESERVE – Inspectors at the Mujib Nature Reserve have recorded seven hunting violations against the Nubian ibex since the beginning of the year.

The inspectors also foil an average of one attempt every 10 days to hunt the globally endangered animal in the Mujib reserve, which was established in 1985 mainly for the reintroduction of the Nubian ibex.

Over-hunting of the ibex in the past led to its extinction in Jordan and other countries in the region, prompting the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to categorise the animal as globally endangered on its red list.

In 1989, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) launched a project to reintroduce the Nubian ibex in Jordan within a 10-square-kilometres area in the Mujib Nature Reserve.

“In 2006, the animal was released into the wild in Mujib. The project was a success, and the ibex population currently stands at 600-700 heads. We spot herds of almost 60 heads every day, especially before sunset,” Mujib Nature Reserve Manager Hisham Dheisat told The Jordan Times during a media tour of the reserve over the weekend organised by the RSCN.

He noted that attempts to hunt the animal rise during the winter and spring, highlighting that hunters track down the Nubian ibex as a hobby rather than for commercial purposes.

“The reserve employs 12 inspectors who work around the clock… to prevent hunting in the 212-square-kilometre reserve,” Dheisat noted.

Mujib, the world’s lowest-altitude nature reserve, is home to high-altitude summits and waterfalls making inspection and prevention of hunting a difficult task for inspectors, he said.

Ali Laimoun, an inspector in the reserve, said he sets out at sunrise every day, touring the area to prevent hunting, monitoring animals’ behaviour and activities and reporting sightings of new species to researchers.

“On some occasions, we are forced to spend the night in the wild while tracking down violators. The reserve’s rough topography of steep mountains and valleys and the fact that there are no connecting roads makes our job much harder,” he told The Jordan Times.

The local community serves as a source that reports any violations, whether illegal hunting or grazing, according to Laimoun, who noted that residents are aware of the benefits of the reserve and its importance.

The Mujib Nature Reserve, poised to become Jordan’s second nature biosphere this month, is home to seasonal and permanent rivers which flow through several valleys, enabling the arid area to support diverse ecosystems and providing vital water resources for the shrinking Dead Sea.

The richest vegetation is found in the valleys, including palm, wild fig and tamarix trees, oleander shrubs, and reed beds along the river, according to the RSCN.

Surveys indicate that the Mujib reserve is home to over 412 plant species, 24 mammals, three kinds of fish and 150 types of birds.