Saudi Arabia: NCW Launches Cave Exploration Program in Northern Border Area

According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
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Saudi Arabia: NCW Launches Cave Exploration Program in Northern Border Area

According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA

The National Center for Wildlife (NCW) is embarking on a groundbreaking exploration program focused on caves in the Northern Borders, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Sunday.
Launched in 2022, the program is part of a larger endeavor dedicated to monitoring all ecosystems and biodiversity across the Kingdom's diverse terrestrial and marine landscapes, it said.
The program aims to achieve three key goals: international recognition by placing these caves on the global map for biodiversity and natural heritage, historical preservation by recognizing them as natural museums that offer insights into past environments, and wildlife conservation by protecting these unique ecosystems.
"The exploration of these caves holds immense historical and environmental value for the Kingdom," said NCW CEO Dr. Mohammed Qurban. "These caves act as a natural museum, showcasing the evolution of biodiversity throughout the region's history, and providing insights into past environmental and climate changes on the Arabian Peninsula."
These efforts build upon NCW's earlier discoveries of mummified cheetahs found in a cave in northern Saudi Arabia. Estimated to be over 4,000 years old, this find marked the first documented evidence of this species in the Kingdom.
"Based on this discovery, NCW is creating a program to reintroduce hunting cheetahs, allowing them to once again play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance," Qurban said.
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. Classification and age determination of these remains are ongoing, paving the way for potential reintroduction efforts.
"The ultimate goal is to reintroduce these extinct species or their closest genetic relatives, allowing them to reclaim their ecological roles," Qurban said.
With 1,826 documented caves across Saudi Arabia, NCW's program sheds light on the Kingdom's natural heritage while promoting conservation and the potential return of lost species.



Rains, Cooler Weather Help Firefighters Gain Ground on Large Wildfires in Southern New Mexico

Nationwide, wildfires have scorched more than 3,344 square miles (8,660 square kilometers) this year — a figure higher than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  - The AP
Nationwide, wildfires have scorched more than 3,344 square miles (8,660 square kilometers) this year — a figure higher than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. - The AP
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Rains, Cooler Weather Help Firefighters Gain Ground on Large Wildfires in Southern New Mexico

Nationwide, wildfires have scorched more than 3,344 square miles (8,660 square kilometers) this year — a figure higher than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  - The AP
Nationwide, wildfires have scorched more than 3,344 square miles (8,660 square kilometers) this year — a figure higher than the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. - The AP

Recent rains and cooler weather are helping more than 1,000 firefighters gain ground on two wildfires in southern New Mexico on Saturday that have killed two people, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands to flee.

Fire crews took advantage of temperatures in the 70s, scattered showers and light winds to use bulldozers to dig protective lines while hand crews used shovels in more rugged terrain to battle the fires near the mountain village of Ruidoso, The AP reported.

The South Fork Fire, which reached 26 square miles (67 square kilometers), was 26% contained, while the Salt Fire, at 12 square miles (31 square kilometers), was 7% contained as of Saturday morning, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Full containment was not expected until July 15, per the agency.

Elsewhere in New Mexico, heavy rain and flash flood warnings prompted officials to order some mandatory evacuations Friday in the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and communities near Albuquerque, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Ruidoso. Las Vegas set up shelters for displaced residents, and some evacuation orders remained in place there on Saturday.

Flash flood warnings were canceled Saturday, though the National Weather Service said afternoon storms could produce excessive runoff and more flooding in the area.

The wildfires have destroyed or damaged an estimated 1,400 structures. Other fallout from the fires — including downed power lines, damaged water, sewer and gas lines, flooding in burn scars — continued “to pose risks to firefighters and the public,” according to a Saturday update from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Evacuations in areas near Ruidoso and road closures were still in effect. In Ruidoso, full-time residents will be allowed to return Monday, though everyday life won’t return to normal.

“You’re going to need to bring a week’s worth of food, you’re going to need to bring drinking water,” Mayor Lynn Crawford said on Facebook.

President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for parts of southern New Mexico on Thursday, freeing up funding and more resources to help with recovery efforts including temporary housing, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property and other emergency work in Lincoln County and on lands belonging to the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, met with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Crawford and Mescalero Apache President Thora Walsh Padilla on Saturday. “These communities have our support for as long as it takes to recover,” Criswell posted on the social media platform X.

Much of the Southwest has been exceedingly dry and hot in recent months. Those conditions, along with strong wind, whipped the flames out of control, rapidly advancing the South Fork Fire into Ruidoso in a matter of hours. Evacuations extended to hundreds of homes, businesses, a regional medical center and the Ruidoso Downs horse track.