Flamingo chicks hatching at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has set up a special area for flamingos to breed.

ABU DHABI // Scientists from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi have figured out how to provide a hospitable environment for flamingo breeding that this year resulted in 110 chicks hatch over the summer.

The migratory birds, which circle through Kazakhstan and Turkey before returning to the Gulf region, recently returned to nest in Abu Dhabi after a long absence.

This year, flamingos began building nests at two sites in the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, 45 minutes from the capital. Scientists have been preparing the reserve to create ideal breeding conditions.

“What we are trying to do is to ensure that they continue to breed at this site regularly, so that they are able to breed successfully,” said Dr Salim Javed, manager of terrestrial assessment and conservation.

Scientists from EAD spotted eggs at the first site on April 21, where 28 chicks hatched. On May 31, 82 chicks hatched at the second site. Last year 200 flamingo chicks hatched at the reserve.

Dr Javed and his team segregated the areas where flamingos congregate to create an island inaccessible to predators. The birds themselves are not vulnerable, but the eggs are.

“They breed mostly in central Asia, but we have created an environment so conducive to the flamingos that they chose to breed in the UAE for the first time in more than 70 years,” said Dr Javed.

The last time flamingos bred in the GCC was in the 1920s in Kuwait, he said.

“You can’t protect flamingos and other waterbirds by just protecting one or two places, you need a network of sites so that they can continue to feed, forage and breed.”

Dr Javed said flamingos were extremely particular about choosing breeding sites.

“The continued breeding of flamingos at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is a result of EAD’s effective management of this important wetland habitat,” said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director for terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

“Flamingos are the star attractions of the reserve,” she said.

EAD has undertaken a successful flamingo monitoring and management programme at the reserve – which is open to visitors – that also involves monitoring of water quality and brine shrimp to help ensure a suitable environment.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

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