The Sultanate of Oman's governorate of Dhofar stretches from Salalah in the south, across the verdant pastures and woodlands of the monsoon mountains to the vast dunes of the Empty Quarter in the north. As well as being a place for wildlife it is a land of fascinating landscapes and is also home to people who, at least since the late Stone Age, have shaped the land that shaped them. Some 2,000 years ago the region first became famous for its frankincense, transported as essential supplies to Roman temples. It was this that first gave Dhofar its mystical allure and was to attract explorers such as Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. In more recent times it is best known for the phenomenon of the summer khareef or monsoon season that each year attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors seeking to escape the heat of the Arabian summer and to enjoy one of the most bio-diverse areas of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of Oman s mammal, bird, reptile and plant species are found in Dhofar, including the critically endangered Arabian leopard roaming the high mountains that tower almost 2,000 metres above sea level. Along the Arabian Sea coast, the deep cold waters support a diversity of sea life that is not found elsewhere in the region, and includes the endangered Arabian Sea humpback whale.
Dr Andrew Spalton is a wildlife biologist who went to the Sultanate of Oman in 1987 to join a team reintroducing the Arabian oryx to the Jiddat Al Harasis in Al Wusta Governorate. His work in Dhofar Governorate began when he established the Arabian Leopard Conservation Programme in 1997. He has also worked on bats, rodents and eagles of Dhofar as well as rangeland management and climate change. He currently serves as an Adviser for Environmental Affairs at Oman s Diwan of Royal Court.
Dr Hadi Musallam Al Hikmani grew up in Jabal Samhan in Dhofar Governorate and joined the Arabian Leopard Conservation Programme in 2002. He holds a B.Sc. in Wildlife Conservation and in 2019 gained his PhD in Biodiversity Management from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (Kent, UK). He currently serves as Wildlife Specialist at Oman s Office for Conservation of the Environment in the Diwan of the Royal Court.