I visited the Oryx Sanctuary in 2000 and by then because of the poaching all the oryx had been taken out of the wild and brought in to a fenced area to protect them. The poachers were working for the sheikhs in the UAE and Qatar who were taking the oryx alive and placing them in private zoos for these sheikhs.
The World Heritage Committee deleted the property because of Oman's decision to reduce the size of the protected area by 90%, in contravention of the Operational Guidelines of the Convention. This was seen by the Committee as destroying the outstanding universal value of the site which was inscribed in 1994.
In 1996, the population of the Arabian Oryx in the site, was at 450 but it has since dwindled to 65 with only about four breeding pairs making its future viability uncertain. This decline is due to poaching and habitat degradation.
After extensive consultation with the State Party, the Committee felt that the unilateral reduction in the size of the Sanctuary and plans to proceed with hydrocarbon prospection would destroy the value and integrity of the property, which is also home to other endangered species including, the Arabian Gazelle and houbara bustard.
The problem, which most people don't seem to comprehend, is that the Oryx Sanctuary is massive. It is 27,500 square kilometers. For comparison the entire state of Kuwait is 17,820 sq. km, while Qatar is 11,437 sq. km. So basically the Oryx Sanctuary was about the size of Kuwait and Qatar combined. It is not easy to protect an area that large when all what a poacher needs is a land cruiser abu shanab and a rifle to go in under the cover of darkness, shoot an oryx or two and drive through the desert, slip the border into KSA or UAE and sell the animal to a rich sheikh who would gladly pay thousands of rials for that oryx.
The decision to reduce the size of the sanctuary was by royal decree 11/2007 on January 28. This isn't some ministerial decision. This came directly from the Sultan of Oman. In fact, the Oryx Project itself is managed directly by the Diwan of Royal Court through the Office of the Adviser for Conservation, not the Ministry of Regional Municipalities. And even now with the sanctuary reduced by 90% it is still about 2,842 square kilometers, i.e. about 4 times the size of Bahrain!
Let me play devil's advocate with this question to my fellow Omanis: with your country's main income coming from oil and production having already dropped by about 300,000 bpd in the past few years, what's more important to you, more oil exploration or an oryx sanctuary bigger than some neighboring countries?
And to those who are complaining about why they didn't know before that the government had reduced the size of the sanctuary by 90%, or how come there hasn't been a statement from the government in response to UNESCO's decision; why are you are surprised? Was there a statement when Oman withdrew from the GCC monetary union last year or Gulf Air this year?
PS. Oman still has four other sites on the list.