Flamingos return to UAE after clocking up thousands of air miles

Ten birds were tagged in 2018 to promote conservation and are now back in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., November 13, 2018.  
Etihad Airways and Environment Agency-Abi Dhabi launch the Abu Dhabi Birdathon to commemorate the Year of Zayed at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani

Ten flamingos tagged in the UAE last year as part of a conservation programme have racked up thousands of air miles travelling the world.

The flamingos were tagged and released from Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and the Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Area in Abu Dhabi in November last year.

Some of the birds even flew across the Arabian Gulf to Central Asia over the past twelve months.

Known as the “birdathon”, the project was developed by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands.

Of the 10 tagged, five migrated outside the country to mainly Central Asia, while the others stayed in the UAE. One bird covered close to 7,000 kilometres travelling to Iran and back, while another travelled 8,500km on its journeys around Central Asia. All 10 are now back at Al Wathba.

The agency has been tracking flamingos since 2005. Each winter, thousands of them return to the UAE with about 4,000 spending the season at Al Wathba, which has become the only site in the Arabian Gulf where these birds breed regularly.

Al Wathba is one of 10 sites in the UAE designated as “wetlands of international importance”. They are also known as Ramsar sites, named after the Iranian city where the convention on international standards was agreed in 1971.

Wetlands protect against coastal erosion, filter water and provide a habitat for many animals. Al Wathba, for example, is home to more than 260 birds besides the flamingo.

The reserve is open to the public during the winter on Thursdays and Saturdays from 8am to 4pm. At least 7,000 people visited last season.