Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi is now on a global list of protected areas.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the wetland reserve on its Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas, a first for the region.
In 2013, Al Wathba became the first area to be designated a Ramsar site in Abu Dhabi for protecting the emirate’s biodiversity and endangered species. Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance and UAE has eight of these.
Al Wathba Reserve is home to over 4,000 flamingos and 260 other birds, 320 invertebrates, 35 plant species, 16 reptiles and 10 mammals. The reserve is also the only site in the Arabian Gulf where the Greater Flamingo breeds regularly. This year, the reserve saw 601 flamingo chicks hatch, the highest number ever recorded at Al Wathba.
The wetland was announced to be on the global list at the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Sharm El-Sheikh this week.
James Hardcastle, IUCN’s lead on the green list programme, said: "Al Wathba is an amazing example of what can be achieved with hard work by men and women working to protect and manage the environment."
Since opening to the public in 2014, Al Wathba has attracted around 20,000 visitors.
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary general of the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi, said: “To see Al Wathba secure its status as a globally recognised Green List Area is a matter of great pride for Abu Dhabi and the UAE.
"Biodiversity is an integral part of our cultural identity too, and something we want to preserve for present and future generations to come.”
The IUCN Green List sets the global standard for protected areas. Sites must fulfil criteria including good governance, effective management, and sound design and planning. The site should also demonstrate successful results from conservation efforts. The certificate is valid for 5 years, during which the site needs to continue making improvements.