Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi Wins Coveted Spot on IUCN’s Green List. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has placed the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi on its Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas, confirmed the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on Tuesday.

The global designation follows efforts by the EAD in developing the reserve since its designation as a protected area in 1998, and is a realisation of the vision of the UAE’s founding father, the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan to provide a safe environment for migratory birds and breeding area for the Greater Flamingo.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is home to over 4,000 flamingos and 260 other birds, 320 invertebrates, 35 plant species, 16 reptiles and 10 mammals, the EAD said, noting the wetland is the only site in the Arabian Gulf where the Greater Flamingo breeds regularly; this year, 601 flamingo chicks hatched at the reserve — the highest number ever recorded at Al Wathba.

“Al Wathba is an amazing example of what can be achieved with hard work by men and women working to protect and manage the environment,” saod James Hardcastle, IUCN’s lead on the Green List programme, in a statement. “This was possible through the vision of EAD and the strong political will to help turn their plans into reality. IUCN recognises the significant results of their work, as demonstrated by the outstanding numbers of flamingos that breed here.”

Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri with her Team after receiving the IUCN Green List Certificate

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said in a statement that the global designation is a major step forward to help protect the wetland reserve in perpetuity.

“To see Al Wathba secure its status as a globally recognised Green List Area is a matter of great pride for Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The conservation of protected areas, natural resources and local biodiversity continues to be a key priority for the Agency. Biodiversity is an integral part of our cultural identity too, and something we want to preserve for present and future generations to come,” he said.

Al Wathba is the first site in the region to make the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas, after completing a series of comprehensive evaluations and assessments that have confirmed EAD’s success in managing Al Wathba in accordance with internationally-benchmarked models of management and conservation.

The IUCN confirmation announcement was made at a gathering of the Fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14) in Sharm Al Shaikh, Egypt.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, executive director of EAD’s Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, said: “EAD was one of the first organisations to adopt the Green List initiative when it was officially launched at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Australia in 2014. Since then, EAD has worked closely with IUCN to activate and implement the Green List Standards for Protected and Conserved Areas in the Arab region. The agency also provided the necessary technical support and hosted the first training programme for IUCN Green List Expert Assessment Groups, allowing them to evaluate and assess regional applications from protected areas wanting to gain Green List status.”