UAE rejoins global waterbird census

For the first time in a decade, the UAE is again contributing to the International Waterbird Census, which focuses on nearly 150 species.

ABU DHABI// For the first time in a decade, the UAE is again contributing to a global water bird census, designed to analyse the environmental threats faced by water birds around the world. The International Waterbird Census is undertaken annually and focuses on nearly 150 species. Collecting data from more than one country is important because many of the birds are migratory, and can travel thousands of kilometres between their breeding grounds and wintering areas. The UAE is a vital route for migratory birds. More than half of the 150 species on the international list, have been recorded here. More than 15,000 Greater Flamingo were recorded from 15 sites in the country, making it the most abundant species found in the survey. "Until 1999, the UAE was participating actively in this," said Dr Salim Javed, the deputy manager of bird conservation at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the coordinator for the survey in the UAE. After a gap of 11 years, the country is resuming the effort, he said, sending in the results of a survey carried out at 40 sites across the country. Carried over a period of two days in January, the survey was done by 14 scientists who recorded more than 53,000 birds. Some of the surveyed areas include Al Wathba Wetland Reserve and Bu Al Syayeef area in Abu Dhabi, Khor Kalba in Sharjah, and Ras al Khor in Dubai. The largest number of birds was recorded at Umm Al Qaiwain's Khor al-Beidha, an area under pressure from development. However, said Dr Javed, until data is collected over time, the figures are hard to interpret. "You need to have long-term data in order to determine trends," said Dr Javed. He added that as the data is accumulated year over year, it will eventually allow scientists to know what is happening with populations of rare birds. "This census is a tool to help us conserve our wetlands and protect our waterbirds," he said. "When undertaken regularly, this census can help us better understand trends in the numbers of birds and assess the status of sites on which they depend." Internationally, the census has helped form decisions to set aside nearly half of the 1,369 wetlands of international importance recognised by the Ramsar Convention, the most important global treaty on water birds. EAD collaborated with Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wide Fund for Nature, the Emirates Bird Record Committee and Fujairah Municipality.