Building a dhub hub in Tanajib

Caring for nature while creating mega-projects

The Tanajib area, situated on the northern coastline of the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, is a natural habitat for various animal and plant species. The environmental and climatic conditions of the deserted area, along with the rich and diversified flora and fauna existing in the region, make the area an ideal home for many species — including the spiny tailed lizards known as dhubs.

According to the assessment of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the dhubs are considered to be vulnerable and, as such, are covered under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Their numbers are decreasing as a result of habitat loss from industrial and other developments, road kill, and hunting.

Several mounds mark new dhub habitat in a protected area near the Tanajib Community Camp

Earlier this year, the Marjan Increment Program and the Safaniyah Onshore Producing (SOnPD) departments joined forces to help protect the vulnerable spiny tailed lizard species.

The collaboration came very timely as heavy equipment is being brought in to kick-start mega-project construction. During the movement of heavy industrial equipment, lizards tend to run toward their burrows (holes) to hide and can end up trapping themselves and eventually be killed as the holes cave in.

A wildlife consultant and an Aramco staff member is doing a final check, just before releasing a dhub into the sanctuary.

The objective of the protection initiative was to capture a limited number of dhubs for release into a protected reserve and monitor the health and population of the lizards in upcoming years, while continuously seeking ways of improving the program.

The previously reserved and fenced Tanajib Biodiversity Area adjacent to Tanajib Community Camp was used for the project, with a total of 23 dhubs captured and transferred to the sanctuary. This biodiversity area is protected from development and disturbance while excluding camels and sheep to maintain strong vegetation inside the fenced boundary.

To prepare for the new arrivals, temporary burrows were dug and the dhubs were identified with passive integrated transformer tags for future monitoring. The Tanajib sanctuary incorporates cameras that will help remote monitoring and viewing of dhubs.

SOnPD will continue to fulfill its environmental commitments while establishing examples as an environmentally friendly producer of hydrocarbons and a responsible neighbor to nearby communities.  The joint efforts between SOnPD and MIPD set an excellent example of environmental stewardship for vulnerable species.

Meanwhile, the environmental stewardship effort has enabled identification of five other species of mammals and six species of lizards in the area and provided a better insight into the dhubs living in the Tanajib Area. The program is a continuous effort, and further work to transfer and monitor dhubs is expected to continue through 2020.