Four Abu Dhabi nature reserves get royal seal of approval

The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, the Arabian Oryx Reserve, the Bustard Reserve and Bu Sayayif Water Reserve will benefit with extra funding and protection.
Al Wathba Wetland, in Abu Dhabi emirate, which is one of four nature reserves to be formally recognised with Royal decrees. Ravindranath K / The National
Al Wathba Wetland, in Abu Dhabi emirate, which is one of four nature reserves to be formally recognised with Royal decrees. Ravindranath K / The National

Four given decrees to earn them extra funds and protection

ABU DHABI // Four nature reserves in the emirate are to be formally recognised with Emiri decrees.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, the executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said that the reserves are Al Wathba Wetland, the Arabian Oryx, the Bustard and Bu Sayayif Water.

“Coordination is currently being undertaken with the relevant parties for the announcement of these areas in Emiri decrees,” she said.

In an interview with The National’s Arabic sister paper Al Ittihad, Dr Al Dhaheri gave an overview of the reserves, which will benefit through the decrees by receiving extra funding and protection.

“Al Wathba was declared a reserve in 1998 for protecting flamingos, following the first successful attempt at the proliferation of this species in the area,” she said.

The reserve, which is a 45-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city, is now home to a variety of species, from reptiles to small mammals and insects.

Al Wathba is under the control of the Environment Agency, which has also run a successful flamingo satellite-tracking programme that provides valuable information on the movements, numbers and migratory path taken by the birds.

Dr Al Dhaheri said the agency also keeps a close eye on the quality of the reserve waters and the brine shrimps there, which are the main food source of the flamingos.

“The reserve was internationally recognised in April, 2013 as a Ramsar [an international convention for conserving wetlands] site and as the emirate’s first wetland of international scale,” she said.

In July last year 200 flamingo eggs hatched at Al Wathba, the highest number since the species started coming back to breed at the reserve in 2011.

As for the Arabian Oryx Reserve, Dr Al Dhaheri said that it was established in 2008 on a 6,000 square kilometre site. It is currently home to more than 400 Arabian Oryx that run free within its boundaries.

“The Arabian Oryx rehabilitation project was launched in 2007 with the release of 98 oryx in the reserve, followed by the release of 87 other oryx in 2010,” she said.

“Since its inception, the project has recorded many successful indicators in terms of increased birth rates, lower death rates and propagation of the herd throughout the reserve.”

The Bustard reserve was built in 2008 on a 769 square kilometre area to give the bird species a natural environment to thrive in.

Dr Al Dhaheri said: “The surface area of reserves managed by the agency totals 15,000 square kilometres – 13.5 per cent of the overall marine area and 14.6 per cent of the terrestrial environment in Abu Dhabi emirate.

“Thanks to the instructions and efforts of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the agency was able to complete the network of nature reserves and get one step closer to the ratios set by Abu Dhabi’s Environment Vision 2030 (17 per cent of terrestrial environment and 10 per cent of marine area) in line with the relevant international agreements, particularly the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae

Published: May 9, 2014 04:00 AM

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