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THE WOMEN OF THE GAZELLES

In memory of Mar Cano



This time we won’t talk about seals. The woman of the picture is Teresa Abáigar. The beautiful animal that she is cuddling with such dedication is a Mohor antelope (Nanger dama mhorr). She is a researcher at the CSIC (Higher Council for Scientific Research in Spain) and works for over 20 years at the Arid Zone Experimental Station of Almeria (EEZA, AZES), about which we will talk later on. But she doesn’t seem to be part of those people who hung its title to just make it visible. She’s small, fragile-looking. But don’t trust appearances. She fools the eye if you do not know her. The strength of spirit should never be measured by the body mass index, and it’s not matter of gender.

Foto teresa The antelope that she is holding with so much love to avoid its succumbing to lie and suffocate by its own weight belongs to a species close to extinction and that has disappeared from its natural habitat, actually artificially surviving in zoos and breeding centers such as the one in Almeria. But thanks to Teresa, and her colleague of many years, Mar Cano, a dream that was in the visionary mind of one of our most distinguished biologists, José Antonio Valverde became true. Since its breeding center in Almeria, associated with several conservation projects are achieving the reintroduction of most of the Saharan species that disappeared due indiscriminate poaching since mid-twentieth century.

Between 1971 and 1975, Valverde, seeing the urgent situation of the great Saharan fauna, and supported by Antonio Cano and her young daughter recently graduated in biology, Mar, among others, conducted what was called the Operation Mohorr. In an action against the clock during the decolonization process at the Spanish province of Sahara, the last 12 specimens that were surviving only in captivity at some military quarters were collected along with other species of the great Sahara. With the help of the army, they were translocate on a military aircraft to the newly established breeding center at Almería. Since then, Antonio Cano, with the help of a skilled Almeria shepherd, Ramón Escamilla, and Mar Cano and Teresa, who took over, with great success handling and efficiency, are reintroducing to their former original habitat, in different Sahara countries, species like the Dorcas gazelle, Cuvier gazelle, Antelope Mohor, Addax, Oryx, or the singular Red Neck Ostrich.

On May 17th, at Safia Nature Reserve, located north of the Mauritanian border, a cycle was completed. A second operation, named after the first as Operation Mohorr II, developed by the High Commissioner for Water and Forests of Morocco, the conservationist association of Dakhla, Nature Initiative, and the Spanish Foundation CBD-Habitat, captured twenty mohores from an acclimatization enclosure of 800 hectares inside the reserve that was built for the reintroduction program on 2008. During the operation, superbly coordinated and executed by biologists and veterinarians from these institutions, of which we should highlight the work of another slim woman, but of great strength, Cristina Martinez, 12 mohores (5 males and 7 females) were handled and equipped with satellite transmitters, making the species return to freedom 50 years later.

But the individual of the photo, the Mohor number 11, to be more precise a female, suffered from the handling. She was too stressed and her wild body collapsed. Veterinarians applied all appropriate shock treatments. Teresa stayed with her under a heat of over 40 degrees, at the shade of a talja, holding it firmly so it didn’t collapse. Moisturizing, soothing, getting her heart pounding and vital signs equilibrate. All the time with her. With great delicacy and tenderness. Showing something that certainly is not mentioned in the new educational excellence and effectiveness plans: sacrifice, vocation, dedication, qualities she shares with Mar and Cristina.

The female mohor # 11 stood up and began to walk.

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