Twelve people from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi’s (EAD) animal collection team were already at the abandoned labour encampment in Mohammed bin Zayed City.
Justin Chuven, animal collection manager from the EAD’s Terrestrial Biodiversity Management, together with his deputy Ricardo Pusey, briefed the team of the ‘capture’ plan to bring the Arabian mountain gazelle that has been wandering the large deserted plain for the past six days, into safety.
They moved into action, setting a series of long nets around the gazelle’s resting area to trap the animal, which had grown terrified and weary of humans after a few attempts at its life.
The manual capture technique, which was meant to be “less invasive and less stressful” for the gazelle also included the use of netguns and rope lariats (lasso).
After a few tries, the team managed to herd the animal into the net trap but it quickly eluded the group before it was able to close in.
Undeterred, Chuven and Pusey pursued the fast disappearing male gazelle, which skilfully dodged even the netgun attempt. But with perseverance, pure stamina, fast driving and efficient technique, the duo caught up and succeeded in lassoing him with the lariat – in just less than an hour after the team moved into action.
Asked why they opted to go for the manual capture technique instead of a dart gun, Chuven explained that the use of dart gun would not be effective for the gazelle which is very agile, quick and evasive. It could run about 50km per hour. The chemical immobilisation agent would also put the animal at risk of hyperthermia.
“When they are left to thermo regulate under natural conditions, it is much safer for the animal and overheating is much less of a risk,” explained Chuven.
According to him, overheating was the biggest concern in addition to the risk of injuring the animal. “But due to the precarious situation this gazelle had found himself in, we had no choice but to attempt to capture and relocate him in this hot time of year,” said Chuven. The animal, which was in good condition after the capture, was taken immediately to one of EAD’s animal conservation and breeding facilities where he will eventually join (after a quarantine period) a herd of other Arabian mountain gazelles.
“He was a little tired but luckily these animals are adapted to this type of climate and we estimate that he will be just fine after a little rest and water. He is a strong, healthy, young animal that is adapted to avoiding predators much faster than us. He is a little underweight (23 kg) but we anticipate that he will gain weight quickly with the proper diet he will now be receiving,” Chuven said.
After reaching the EAD facility on Thursday, the animal, estimated to be three to six years old, underwent veterinary examination.
“He was then released into a quarantine pen with lots of shade, drinking water and fresh alfalfa for him to consume at his leisure,” related Chuven.
Mohammed Tasleem, an employee of Top Lube, the lubricant factory where the gazelle was seen wandering, was relieved at seeing the gazelle finally safe.
Tasleem spotted the animal first on Friday night and since then, has taken it upon himself to ensure that it has a bucketful of water to drink and deters anyone from stalking the animal.
Before getting rescued, the mountain gazelle was in danger of getting mauled by wild dogs and some of the people in the area who wanted it for its meat.
“I am happy as I know now he will be safe. I can go to sleep, finally,” he said.
Despite the success of the venture, watching the capture in action was an unpleasant experience for Tasleem who was fearful that his ward would wander further out into the road and into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, the gazelle appeared to have the same concern.
The gazelle was believed to have escaped from one of the villas at the Mohammed bin Zayed, near Mazyad Mall. Till the capture, no one has come forward to claim ownership of the endangered species.
“The EAD does not encourage ownership of endangered species as pets,” stressed Chuven.
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