Abu Dhabi: For the first time in the Arabian Peninsula, five Greater Flamingos have been electronically tagged, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi announced on Sunday.

According to the agency, the satellite tagging was done to understand where the flamingoes go to feed and where they were coming from, and was also done to study their movements in the context of bird flu.

"Valuable preliminary data already collected from the birds has been of significant scientific and management importance for this species," the agency said in a statement.

The capture and marking was carried out at Abu Dhabi's Al Wathba Wetland Reserve by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) which also manages the reserve, one of the largest flamingo sanctuaries in the country.

Lot of activity

"Of the five captured birds, two were tested for avian influenza, or bird flu, and both tested negative. A rapid test was conducted on the spot and, to further confirm, a more reliable test was performed later at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital," the agency said.

The statement added since being marked, the five birds have demonstrated a lot of activity and movement. One bird has moved to Dubai's Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, another has remained at the reserve, and the rest have moved around the Al Dhabb'iya and Al Aryam coast of Abu Dhabi.

According to the EAD, these recorded movements reiterate how important wetland areas such as Ras Al Khor and Al Wathba are to flamingos and the many other birds which frequent these wetlands. The agency also stressed how vital it was to protect these important habitats.

"EAD hopes that additional data, collected in the coming days, will prove extremely useful to learn more about flamingo movement in and outside the UAE. It may also provide information for understanding bird movement and migration in the context of bird flu," the statement said.

To deploy the transmitters on the flamingos, the agency used backpack harnesses, a method that has proven successful on many large birds in Spain and Africa. The plastic rings used were donated by the flamingo team of the Station Biologique Tour du Valat in France, as part of an international flamingo ringing scheme.

Flamingos at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve usually gather in dense flocks of over 100 individuals on the man-made bird lake or in the shallow inter-tidal lagoons, protected by mangrove bushes.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve was declared a protected area in 1998, upon the orders of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The five kilometre area is home to more than 220 species of birds. It also provides a safe refuge for many other species of reptiles, small mammals and insects.