Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, Oman (delisted 2007)

Background

This 2.75M ha site was inscribed in 1994, and is recognized in large part as one of the last remaining area with wild herds of the Arabian Oryx, an iconic antelope.

Issues

This site was inscribed despite recommendations to the contrary by IUCN, as the boundaries and statutory protection frameworks had not yet been clearly defined by the government of Oman. The WH Committee explained that it was satisfied of the political will of the Omani government in carrying out the recommendations. Despite multiple reassurances on the part of the government, the situation was not addressed, and in 2005, the WH Committee was informed of plans for a 90% reduction in area of the reserve on the part of the government, and for the granting of oil exploration permits to a multinational/Omani joint venture. This eventually led to the first ever delisting of a WH site (only 2 have ever been delisted).

Impact on Operations

There was significant reputational risk to the multinational involved in the joint venture – but this was largely avoided due to the corporate identity being subsumed into the joint venture. There were delays in starting operations. Oman’s reputation as a country that keeps to its international commitments, made under treaties and Conventions, was damaged.

Contributing Factors

  • The WH Committee’s inscription of WH site was not entirely based on sound technical advice, but also on political considerations, leading to the inscription of a site which was not properly protected by national legislation.

  • The on-going ambiguity of the situation led to increasing expectations on the part of the oil company that it would be granted the right to operate within the site.