Bird-watchers in for a treat as centre home to 350 species opens

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SHARJAH // The UAE’s bird-watching community will on Wednesday celebrate the opening of a new centre in Sharjah.

Wasit Wetland Centre, situated within the 4.5 square kilometre Wasit natural reserve near Mawafjah, is home to 350 species of bird. The project, which started in 2007 by a decree from the Ruler of Sharjah, will be open to the public from Wednesday.

The most distinguished feature of the reserve is its diverse ecosystem, which comprises coastal sand dunes and salt flats (sabkhas), linking ponds and a large, open lake.

The centre’s boundary trees purify the air and eradicate harmful gases and dust, increase the ratio of oxygen and reduce the greenhouse effect, aiding the habitat of its numerous migrating and rare birds. The reserve also contains many lagoons.

Hana Al Suwaidi, chairwoman of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority, said: “Migrating birds from East Asia and West Africa land on the coast of the country, which is close to Wasit. The number of birds landing in the wetland has reached 33,000.”

The centre aims to educate people on the birds and it offers its facilities to the public and researchers. It contains eight bird hides, each providing detailed information and signboards about the birds that frequent the area, while binoculars and golf carts are available to take visitors through the wetlands and bird hides.

“Between 60 and 100 types of migrating birds were spotted landing in Wasit, where they stay for several weeks and then continue their journey to the south Arabian peninsula and Africa,” said Ms Al Suwaidi, adding that the centre was a great place for bird watchers to monitor migrating birds.

It took the centre two years to bring all the non-migratory birds to their new home. Many were bred at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, which is also in Sharjah.

A medical team is stationed at the centre to monitor the birds’ health and respond to any medical situation and bird watchers have set up a file for each bird.

The centre will be open to the public six days a week, excluding Tuesdays. Entrance is Dh15 for adults and free for children under the age of 12.