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Nature reserve witnesses conservation miracle after rewilding efforts of multibillion dollar project: 'We're seeing some amazing successes already'

The reserve soon plans to build on its wildlife rewilding program.

The reserve soon plans to build on its wildlife rewilding program.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A $500 billion rewilding effort in Saudi Arabia, which is helping to regreen the desert and reintroduce native species, recently hit a milestone.

Arabian Business reported on the rewilding efforts happening at the 9,653-square-mile NEOM Nature Reserve, where conservationists hope to protect 95% of the land. 

In 2022, the sanctuary welcomed a group of animals including ibex, sand gazelles, mountain gazelles, and the Arabian oryx, an antelope that hadn't walked NEOM's sands for over a century. This group of animals had 60 babies during the first breeding season, as the outlet detailed.

The reserve soon plans to build on its wildlife rewilding program by reintroducing predators such as the caracal, Arabian lynx, and cheetah.

NEOM is also adding 100 million native plants to the landscape and has already put two million trees in the ground. Plus, it is looking to replenish the reserve's marine habitats — NEOM is engaging in sea turtle monitoring and satellite tagging, dugong surveys, aerial surveys of large animals using drones, and coral and seagrass habitat restoration, as Arabian Business reported.

"We're already off to a really good start and we're seeing some amazing successes already," Paul Marshall, head of the reserve, told the outlet.

With all this work, NEOM is set to become an ecotourism destination where visitors will eventually be invited to participate in hands-on conservation work.

NEOM is one of many projects worldwide that are looking to rewild land and reintroduce native fauna. For instance, conservationists released 40 southern white rhinos on a private reserve in South Africa as part of a larger effort to rewild the animal across the continent. Norway recently completed its largest rewilding project in history in a move that will support polar bears, Arctic foxes, and other imperiled wildlife.

Conserving nature isn't just good for plants and animals. For one, nature can provide economic benefits through activities such as ecotourism and fishing. Plus, spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and increase happiness, among other advantages, per the American Psychological Association.

As for NEOM's rewilding efforts, "What you're seeing here is the kingdom really embracing the incredible natural heritage it has," Marshall said.

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