David Johnson, Martha Holmes and Moath Yaqoub Bin Hafez with Nahla Elmallawany, head of content, Discovery Middle East and Africa, during the preview of the documentary on Tuesday. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: A new Discovery Channel documentary titled Wild Dubai that sheds a light on animal conservation efforts in the UAE will premiere on October 9.

The 40-minute documentary is split into four locations: the coast, the desert, a wetland in Ras Al Khor and the Hatta mountains south-east of central Dubai.

Rescue stories include how the Arabian Oryx became the first ever animal to be reintroduced back into their natural habitat after going extinct in the wild, and how the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project team works from the Burj Al Arab to capture, rehabilitate and re-release any sick or injured sea turtles.

A video grab of an oryx herd from the Wild Dubai documentary.

Director-producer David Johnson and executive producer Martha Holmes highlighted 15 species, from the flamingos in Ras Al Khor to the Arabian tahr in the mountains of Hatta.

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“When you speak to people in Europe, particularly, about Dubai, and you say you’re going to make a film there, they naturally assume you’re making a film about the architecture or the shopping. I really wanted to come here and show that there is wildlife here,” said Johnson, after a private screening of the documentary on Tuesday afternoon.

When Holmes, a BAFTA Award-winning marine biologist, first got the call from Discovery that the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO) was interested in collaborating, she was “slightly worried, but very interested”.

Huge potential

“We did a bit of research on our end, we talked to a lot of scientists, and we felt that there was actually a huge potential there,” she said.

Her team pitched two ideas and Wild Dubai was the final result. The film took seven weeks on-and-off to shoot.

Johnson recalled waking up before dawn to sit “in a hide for days” with cameraman Michael Pitts, waiting for the perfect shot of spiny-tailed lizards, who change from black in the mornings – better to soak up the sun – to yellow to prevent overheating. But it was Johnson and Pitts who suffered the weather.

“It was May, it was really hot, and we were out in the desert in a sort of wicker shack,” he said.

Moath Yaqoub Bin Hafez, creative production manager at GDMO, said his team was able to assist in finding ideal locations and the right people to interview.

“I think they needed a local eye in order to help them achieve their vision,” he said.

Camel and falconry races are also shown in the documentary.

Wild Dubai will premiere at 9pm on October 9 on OSN’s Discovery Channel (channel 500). It will also air in Germany, Russia, Japan and Asia Pacific.