The Abu Dhabi Birdathon will see a total of 10 flamingos being released and tracked over the next four months. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In keeping with the legacy of late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his care towards animal conservation and sustainability, the Abu Dhabi Birdathon was launched on Tuesday which will see a total of 10 flamingos being released and tracked over the next four months.

The Birdathon is part of a joint initiative between Etihad Airways and the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD), as the programme aims to raise awareness on the subject of wetland conservation and the UAE’s own successful flamingo breeding programme at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve.

As part of the Birdathon, the flamingo that migrates the farthest by March 4, 2019 — which coincides with World Wildlife Day — will be declared the winner, although there will be no actual prizes or rewards handed out. The birds can be tracked online at www.adbirdathon.ae.

The birds are expected to migrate a distance of over 4,000 kilometres during the next four months to countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan before eventually making their way back to the UAE.

The Abu Dhabi Birdathon will see a total of 10 flamingos being released and tracked over the next four months. Image Credit: COURTESY: Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi.

“We are thrilled to launch this project with the EAD to honour a great visionary’s passion for wildlife release programmes. As these beautiful birds take flight, satellite transmitters will not only allow us to obverse their migratory patterns as they travel towards the Caspian Sea, but also preserve the emirate’s rich biodiversity, said Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer, Etihad Aviation Group.

“The exciting part of this is that in four months time, we have no idea which bird will have had the most interesting flight path or whose flamingo will have travelled the farthest,” he added.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said the Birdathon was both a tribute to the late Shaikh Zayed as well as a scientific endeavour.

“Today, the Abu Dhabi Birdathon is our way of sharing our years-long passion for conservation with our strategic partners. It is especially symbolic that we are sharing this passion for conservation in the Year of Zayed.

“In 1998, it was the late Shaikh Zayed who recognised the potential of Al Wathba as a safe breeding ground for flamingos, which led him to establish it as a protected area,” she added.

Al Daheri explained the importance of having a tracking system for migratory birds and said it helped with conservation efforts.

“The EAD has been tagging and tracking migratory birds since 2005 through our globally recognised satellite tracking programme. Some of these species have been tracked for the very first time in the world.

“This information collected has helped us in numerous ways. It has helped us better understand the birds’ ecology, movement, migration routes, stopovers and has led to identifying areas of conservation significance for these birds,” she added.