The UAE's first national park, Wadi Wurayah, has won worldwide acclaim – after securing Unesco Biosphere Reserve status.
The Fujairah nature spot was one of 24 sites to win the seal of approval, which recognises protected areas that demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature, and encourage sustainable development.
The wadi’s pools, streams and waterfalls support a rich variety of wildlife that include the Omani owl and the urothemis thomasi dragonfly, which was so rare it had not been sighted since 1957 and was thought to be extinct.
The Wadi is home to 81 bird species, 20 mammal species, at least nine reptile and amphibian species and 467 invertebrates. It is one of the few remaining places in the UAE where traditional farming practices are maintained.
Each of the 24 reserves is nominated and maintained by national governments.
A National Ecotourism Project was announced by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment on July 5. It listed Wadi Wurayah as a destination to be promoted to tourists.
But human activity is restricted to protect the wadi’s fragile ecosystem. Each Unesco biosphere reserve has a core zone that is strictly protected, a buffer zone for ecological activities that support scientific research and education and a transition area that encourages economic and human development.
The UAE has not had a new Unesco Biosphere Reserve designation since 2007, when Marawah joined the internationally recognised list. The Marawah reserve has a coastline of more than 120 kilometres and represents 4per cent of the UAE's total area. Its islands are important nesting sites for hawksbill turtles and migratory birds and its sea grass beds are feeding grounds for dugongs.