Hated and vilified, little is known about the Socotra Cormorant. The seabird’s shrinking population is limited to the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. Its numbers are in decline. The UAE is home to an estimated 38,000 breeding pairs, about a third of the world’s population. At least seven of the country’s 20 colonies have gone extinct since 2006.
The largest remaining colony is off the Umm Al Quwain coast on Siniya island where 15,500 breeding pairs nest from August until April. These photographs by Rob Gubiani, a biologist at UAE University who works at the Siniya island colony, show a different side to a creature long misunderstood by fishermen and coastal residents. Mr Gubiani and Timothee Cook, a University of Cape Town ornithologist, spent last autumn on the Siniya island colony fitting cormorants with a US$35 GPS cat tracker that monitored their flight.
The UAE University indicates that Phalacrocorax nigrogularis will travel hundreds of kilometers in a single feeding. The findings strengthen the case for a national protection strategy of the country’s coastline.
The research is part of a long-term research project funded by the National Research Foundation, the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and in collaboration with the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi and the Marine Environmental Research Centre. (Photo Courtesy- Rob Gubiani) FOR ANNA ZACHARIAS STORY