UAE | Environment

Bu Tinah Island a haven for endangered animals and birds

Increased awareness encourages local communities to protect reserve

  • By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 April 23, 2011
  • Gulf News

Bu Tinah Island
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • The Bu Tinah Island, located around 130 km west of Abu Dhabi, was established as a natural reserve in 2001 and then accepted by Unesco as a core area within the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve in 2007.
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Abu Dhabi: The rangers policing the waters around Bu Tinah Island can seek the help of the UAE Coast Guard to stop fishing boats or tourist boats encroaching into the restricted area.

"But we never had such a situation in recent years, thanks to the increasing awareness in the community about the need to protect the unique biodiversity on the island," the rangers told Gulf News during a first media tour to the island on Wednesday.

"Local fishermen [in Al Mirfa and surrounding areas in Western Region] never enter the restricted area even by mistake because they know its importance," Ameen Al Beloushi, a technician working with the rangers, said.

"While patrolling, we have encountered some of the fishing boats from the Abu Dhabi mainland. When we told them they have encroached into Bu Tinah, all of them said they were aware of the protected island but reached there by mistake," he said. He said such increased awareness made their job easy.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), which protects the island, has been running a campaign to put the island on the list of New Seven Wonders of the World. A senior official of the EAD told Gulf News during the tour that the campaign has already borne fruit.

"Even if the island does not make it to the list of wonders, we don't mind, because the campaign has already created unprecedented awareness about the need to protect the biodiversity in the country for future generations," Aisha Al Beloushi, Aquaculture Scientist at the EAD, said.

The island has new stories to tell about the increasing population of its rare birds and animals. About seven baby Osprey chicks have hatched this year and two Hawksbill turtles have arrived to nest.

The seven Osprey chicks were discovered in three sheltered nests scattered across the island.

The Osprey is one of seven significant species of wildlife living on Bu Tinah. Relatively undisturbed by human presence or development, Bu Tinah offers an abundance of the Osprey's natural food source in its surrounding waters.

Nesting site

The Osprey is a bird of national importance and high significance to the ecosystem. Ospreys rely on fish as the main constituent of their diet so they are classified as birds of prey. In the region they are found around the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman (mainly in Musandam) and the Red Sea.

Two Hawksbill turtles — a critically endangered species — have also arrived on the island to nest, marking the beginning of the turtle nesting season.

Thabit Al Abdul Salam, Director of EAD's Biodiversity Management Sector, said, "Abu Dhabi provides an important location for the Osprey, with over 90 per cent of the bird population in the country recorded as living in the emirate.

"At a time when the Osprey's natural habitat is being disturbed by manmade development, Bu Tinah provides a secure and food-rich shelter for these birds."

The island is unique; in spite of the harsh temperatures and salinity, its habitats and species, which also include coral, sea grass, dugongs and sea turtles, continue to thrive, making the island an important location for climate change studies.

The survival of Bu Tinah's Coral reefs, despite the harsh environment, has given researchers insight into coral reef survival elsewhere in the world in the face of global warming.

How you can vote for Bu Tinah Island

  • Send an SMS ‘BU TINAH' to 3888. You can vote as many times as you wish.
  • Vote online at www.butinah.ae (only one vote per email address)

Undisturbed by development

The Bu Tinah Island, located around 130 km west of Abu Dhabi, was established as a natural reserve in 2001 and then accepted by Unesco as a core area within the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve in 2007 — the first such reserve in the region

Bu Tinah is undisturbed by development, boat traffic and fishing. EAD launched an international campaign to encourage people to vote for Bu Tinah Island as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature (N7W) in March 2010. Bu Tinah was shortlisted among 28 finalists in total, from an original 447 sites from around the world, becoming the only finalist representing the Gulf region

Treasure trove of flora and fauna

The island is a habitat for seven groups of plant and animal species:

Coral Reefs: Bu Tinah has globally unique corals. Their survival, despite the harsh environment, has given researchers insight into coral reef survival elsewhere in the world in the face of global warming.

Dugongs: The island has one of the world's densest populations of these threatened species in because of extensive seagrass meadows.

Natural Mangroves: They reach an average height of 5 metres and support wildlife including birds, fish and crustaceans.

Hawksbill Turtles: Every year, this critically endangered species arrives to Bu Tinah Island to nest.

Dolphins: The Indo-pacific humpback, bottlenose and common dolphins swim around the Island

Ospreys: Bu Tinah Island is a major breeding site for this globally important bird. Seven chicks were discovered in 2010

Socotra Cormorants: Bu Tinah Island is a roost site for about 20,000-25,000 of these birds.

 

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