Photo essay: Inside Dubai's huge desert conservation reserve

The fenced reserve opened in 2002 and is home to 'culturally symbolic species of flora and fauna'

Powered by automated translation

Abundant wildlife and thriving vegetation can be found at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Opened in 2002, the 225-square-kilometre reserve takes up almost 5 per cent of Dubai's total land area. It is also fenced to preserve the flora and fauna that naturally inhabit the space.

“The DDCR represents the UAE's desert landscape if left alone," says Basil Roy, a conservation officer. "It is home to culturally symbolic species of flora and fauna, such as the Arabian gazelle, the spiny-tailed lizard, and the ghaf tree."

Roy has worked at the DDCR for the past two years. He currently plans, controls, develops and monitors the conservation practices and environmental work in the reserve, such as the Arabian oryx monitoring programme.

He says there have been 74 plant species, 142 species of migratory and resident birds, 26 reptile species, 18 mammal species, and more than 300 insect species recorded at the reserve.

In addition to spotlighting the ecosystem components, the reserve has recently opened a visitor centre.

"It will showcase all of DDCR's conservation achievements and scientific findings over the past two decades. Information on DDCR's establishment, safeguarding and scientific research of its natural environment is accessible to the public. Also, the reserve can be visited with several tour operating companies," Roy says.

Those who visit the reserve catch a glimpse of some evasive animals, especially at dawn or dusk. Day tours are possible and there is the five-star Al Maha hotel nestled in the reserve for those who want to spend more time there.

“At sunrise and sunset there are more chances of recording elusive wildlife such as the Arabian horned viper, the Arabian red fox, and the pharaoh eagle owl,” Roy says.

He also says the Arabian oryx, the Arabian gazelle, the sand gazelle, several species of migratory and resident birds such as the desert wheatear, the blue-cheeked bee-eater and the brown-necked raven are more commonly spotted. Reptiles such as the spiny-tailed lizard and the white-spotted sand lizard as well as several types of insects can also be seen.

To safeguard the space, Roy says the reserve has implemented regulations to minimise human impact on the local flora and fauna.

“One crucial policy set up by the DDCR was to limit human activity, such as off-roading, in the area by fencing the entirety of the reserve and restricting access to the general public," he says.

"As well as regulating the visitors coming into the area, camel farms were removed from the zone in order to prevent the overgrazing of desert vegetation. By doing so, the natural reserve has been able to become a haven for desert wildlife and is successful in replenishing endangered species populations, like the Arabian oryx.”

Updated: December 08, 2023, 6:01 PM