Sharjah: The city of Kalba in Sharjah emirate is expected to partially open a nature reserve to the public by October as part of efforts to educate residents and visitors about local wildlife and their habitat.
The announcement was made during the inauguration of the Kalba Eco-tourism Project on Friday which witnessed the release of 21 falcon species, including the Al Hur, Shaheen, Al Wakri, hawk falcon, and the eagle owl.
Releasing the endangered wild animals in Al Hafiya was to rehabilitate nature, which once was home to rare animal species but was damaged as a result of overfishing and human wrongdoing
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, released 18 gazelles of the endangered Damani species into the Al Hafiya nature reserve in Kalba to signal the first phase of the project.
"Releasing the endangered wild animals in Al Hafiya was to rehabilitate nature, which once was home to rare animal species but was damaged as a result of overfishing and human wrongdoing," said Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA).
David Steed, a consultant at the EPAA in Sharjah, told Gulf News that the conservation area in Al Ghail will help visitors appreciate the ecosystem in the Arabian Peninsula by showing birds of prey in their natural setting. "By this winter, we hope to introduce the birds to the public and will build [an arena] that can cater up to 300 people so they can sit through the bird show. We have 23 birds now and expect more birds later this year, but not all the birds are indigenous," said Steed, who pointed out that as the centre grows, it will slowly be dedicated to regional species.
The three-phase project is expected to be completed in six years. It has been undertaken by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in collaboration with the EPAA in Sharjah and the International Conservation Services.
Marwan Al Sarkal, chief executive of Shurooq, explained that the first phase is currently under way and will see the redevelopment of Al Hafiya and Al Qurm, which have been fenced off since February. As part of the project, endangered animals and birds that are nurtured in the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife will be released in the conservation area, and archaeological sites within the area will be restored.
"We want people to see not what man has made but what nature has created," said Al Sarkal. "The project also extends to Al Qurm area and, over a period of time, we will reintroduce the kingfisher bird, crabs, turtles and flamingos. The area has already been fenced and for the time-being, the mangroves are only allowed to be visited by schoolchildren and scientists for research."
The second phase of the project will involve the development of Kalba creek and the construction of a commercial complex, in addition to developing recreational spaces for visitors.
The project also envisages the development of a number of islands in the creek, as well as rehabilitation of their natural environments.
The last phase of the project will focus on tourism and will witness a number of hotels and lodges overlooking the Gulf of Oman being built in line with eco-friendly standards.
The Kalba Eco-tourism Project will become the largest eco-tourism initiative in the UAE. It was officially launched on Friday in the heart of Kalba, 15 kilometres south of Fujairah city along the UAE-Oman border.
The project will mainly focus on three areas in Kalba, namely Al Ghail, Al Hafiya and Al Qurm.
Al Ghail is home to Al Ghail Fort. There are plans to start a bird show for an audience of 300 by the end of the year which will allow visitors to see more than 20 species of predatory birds at close quarters.
Al Hafiya sanctuary saw 18 gazelles of the endangered Damani species being added to its population on Friday and more desert creatures, including foxes, are be introduced in the future.
Al Qurm is filled with mangroves and is considered a known habitat of a number of marine species. Kingfishers, crabs, turtles and flamingos will also be introduced into the reserve.