Smahan's Mountain Nature Reserve
Permanent Delegation of the Sultanate of Oman to UNESCO
Sultanate of Oman, Governorate of Dhofar
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Smahan's Mountain Nature Reserve (JSNR) is located in the south ofOman (see the attached map). It has an approximate area of 4500 km², and was legally designated by a Royal Decree (R.D. 48/97) in 1997. It is now the largest protected area in the country. The reserve was established to protect wildlife in its natural habitats and to promote sustainable use of the natural resources such as wildlife-related tourism.
Smahan's Mountain Nature Reserve encompasses a tract of elevated limestone highlands, rising steeply from the coastal plain and sloping more gently towards the interior. Land forms include sloping plateaus deeply incised with tortuous, canyon and ravine like wadis, and associated hills. Elevations range from 0 to about 1800 masl. The southern sector of the reserve includes foothills at the base of the escarpment.
JSNR is home to a unique variety of plants, especially ones that thrive in creeks and wadis south of the reserve, they include glasswort, ditch reed, palms, Prosopis cineraria, Anogeissus dhofarica, Pappea capensis, Boswellia sacra, Aloe sp. and many more. The reserve's central plateau (Hawjer oasis) encompasses the largest group of frankincense or olibanum trees in the area. Economically speaking, Olibanum is the most valuable plant in the reserve. Other annual plants and shrubs also thrive in this part of the reserve.
In the northern parts of the reserve, where desert climate prevails, Acacia tortilis trees grow deep into the wadis (Wadi Ara, Wadi Andhoor and Wadi Dimit) along with wild palms, olibanum trees and desert plants.
Plants of special interest include Carallumasp. nov., Maytenus sp. nov., Anogeissus dhofarica, Launaeacastanosperma, Lavandulahasikensis, Salvia sp. nov., Barleria samhanensis and Dracaenaserrulata.
Various species of wildlife live and breed throughout the reserve , availability of preys and vegetation in most wadis as well as plenty of water in the springs and ponds left by abundant rainfall, creating suitable living environment for the herbivores. The reserve is unintrabited by human, thus wildlife are least disturbed except for occasional poachers.
Shrimps and abalone are found in the marine area while whales and dolphins are seen along the coasts between Hadbin and al Shuwaimiyya. Green Turtles and Loggerheads also nest on the sandy beaches near the reserve.
The steep cliffs in certain wadis such as Wadi Sunayk offer ideal breeding sites for a number of rare species such as herons and tropic birds. The coastal waters provide food for Masked Boobies and Socotra Cormorants. In the same wadi, a Khaur surrounded with vegetation exist and attracts nesting turtles and migrant birds nest unto the adjacent cliffs.
A major predator living in the reserve, the Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) roams freely inside the reserve and vicinities. It is the world's only place designated for protecting this unique threatened species. Other predators in the reserve include the Striped Hyaena, Arabian Wolf, Caracal, Foxes, Honey badgers, mongooses, and Genets.
The reserve is home to a group of herbivores such as the Nubian Ibex (Capra (ibex) nubiana), considered as the biggest herbivore that lives and breeds in the northern parts of the reserve. Gazelles (Gazella gazella cora) also inhabit the northern parts, especially in Wadi Ara, Wadi Andhoor and Wadi Dimit, but are now being commonly spotted in the southern parts, especially in the area between Wilayat Mirbat and Sadah. The hyrax, a favorite prey of the Arabian leopard, harbors the crevices of steep cliffs of the reserve.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Smahan's Mountain is the only location in the Arabian region that supports the existence of African Tree (Papea capensis). It is also an important refuge for the Nubian Ibex which is in the IUCN Endangered category. The rare Arabian Leopard and Dhofar White-toothed Shrew (Crocidura somalica dhofarensis) are under the IUCN Critically Endangered status. More over, the steep cliffs in certain wadis offer ideal breeding sites for a number of rare species of birds such as herons and tropic birds and other migratory species.
Criteria (vii), (x): Smahan's Mountain Nature Reserve (JSNR) meets criteria VII and X as it encompasses different lansdscapes, habitats and relatively rich biodiversity. The reserve contains Limestone mountains that rises to 2100 m and consists of a rolling plateau dissected by deep gorges that fall 500-1000 m below. It also includes coastal cliffs and beaches.
The deep canyons with water pools and various species of plants provide ideal habitat for the Critically Endangered animal called Arabian Leopard. The reserve is characterized botanically by a high degree of endemism. Nubian Ibex, Arabian Gazelle, Stripped Hyaenas, Caracal, Wild Cats, Foxes and Wolves are also present in the area. The reserve is considered as a major habitat for the Nubian Ibex.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Smahan's Mountain Nature Reserve has been exceptional not to have any human inhabitants within its territory. However, it is frequently used by some shepherds living the reserve to graze their livestock. Occasionally, people trek unto the wadis and cliffs to gather frankincense. Traditional fishing is practiced along the shoreline. At present, these activities are allowed to help the local communities in their livelihood. Its unique geological formation of limestones, deep canyons, wadis and oases are by itself natural features of the reserve. Dwelling within it are some of the rarest trees of the Arabian region, to include Anogeissus dhofarica, Pappea capensis and Adansonia digitata. The reserve has been refuted as the only habitat of Pappaea capensis in the Arabian Peninsula. The central plateau (Hawjer oasis) encompasses the largest aggregation of olibanum trees in the area.
Of archeological significance are ruins of an ancient port which are found on the eastern side of Wadi Andhoor.
Comparison with other similar properties
Jebal Samhan is in regional terms with the following sites:
- Harrat al Harrah Reserve inSaudi Arabia
- Al Tubayq Reserve inSaudi Arabia
- Ibex Reserve at Hawtah bani Tamim
Harrat al Harrah Reserve is the first protected area established inSaudi Arabiacovering 13,775 sq km. It consists of desert steppe and volcanic rock mountains. It is home to the endangered Arabian and Sand Gazelles, the Arabian Wolf and Desert Sand Cat. It is also the wintering grounds for Houbara Bustard, Cream-colored Courser, Dotterel, Golden Eagle, and a variety of other bird species.
Also established inSaudi Arabiain 1989, Al Tubayq Natural Reserve is a 12,200 sq km span raised in a flat form of ancient dark sandstone rising 300-400 m above the rolling sandy plains. The escarpment is habitat of gazelles, wolves, foes, hares, falcons, eagles and partidges. This reserve is one of the few places in the country to support Capra Ibex populations. It was once a habitat of the ostrich (Struthio camelus) and the reserve is a possible reintroduction site in the future. Vegetation is limited to Haloxylon shrubs and few stunted Acacia trees.
Established in 1993, the Ibex Reserve Hawtah Bani Tamim in centralSaudi Arabiasupports viable population of the Nubian Ibex. The reserve covers 2,369 sq km in the Tuwaiq escarpment characterized by steep-walled wadis. Besides the ibex, Arabian Sand Gazelle, rock hyrax, wild cats, mongoose and eagles inhabit the area.
Wadi Wuaraya Mountain Protected Area in Fujairah, UAE hosts a number of rare and endangered species that include the Arabian Leopard, Caracal, Blandfor’s Fox and Arabian Tahr. A local tribe exists harmoniously in the reserve which engages in agriculture, honey gathering and livestock. The tribesmen are being tapped to help in the management of the reserve.