A record number of 448 flamingos chicks which hatched at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve this summer months after yet another successful breeding season at the Reserve. Image Credit: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

A record number of 448 flamingo chicks hatched at the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi during these summer months, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) announced on Tuesday.

This year in mid-April, flamingos began building nests at the reserve’s main nesting location. Shortly after, EAD scientists spotted the first eggs. A record number of 448 chicks was recorded this year, exceeding the previous record number of 420 chicks hatched at Al Wathba in 2015, said an EAD press release.

The continued breeding of flamingos at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is a result of EAD’s effective management of this important wetland habitat, said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, Executive Director, Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD.

“Flamingos are the star attractions of the reserve; a high number of people have been coming to see them since the reserve was opened to visitors.” Consecutive breeding for seven years has attracted the interest of both the public and scientists in the reserve, she added.

Flamingos bred for the first time at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in 1998. Following this success, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan established the reserve as a protected area. This is the only site in the UAE where the birds have bred more than once and continue to breed regularly. The reserve is a 45-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city and a safe refuge for many species of reptiles, small mammals and insects.

Dr Salim Javed, Acting Director of Terrestrial Biodiversity Division at the EAD, said the agency has undertaken a successful flamingo monitoring and management programme at the reserve. The programme also involves monitoring of water quality and Artemia (or brine shrimp) to help ensure a suitable environment for the flamingos to breed, he said. “Presence of a large number of flamingos and regular breeding at Al Wathba raises the profile of the reserve locally and internationally. In recognition of this and other elements of biodiversity, the reserve was declared as a Ramsar Site, in April 2013, under the Ramsar Convention,” Dr Javed said.

The Greater flamingo’s (Phoenicopterus roseus) range stretches from the western Mediterranean Basin to Sri Lanka and South Africa. The birds are seen in the UAE throughout the year at locations including lagoons, fresh and salt waters of artificial wetlands. They are also found near highways, suburbs, industrial areas, saltpans, and sewage ponds.