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A bird at Mangrove in Eastern Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: When a pair of red foxes and six cubs emerged out of mangroves, children among tourists were excited to see them and they started feeding the cubs. A ranger on duty gently told the children they were not allowed to feed wild animals in Mangrove National Park, a protected area on the eastern corniche in Abu Dhabi city.

“The children were a little bit upset but followed my instruction and started watching the fox cubs,” Ganem Thani Al Rumaithi, 23, a ranger with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), told Gulf News in an interview.

He said tourists often defy restriction on feeding wild animals for excitement of seeing them closely. “Perhaps they feel they should do something for the animals. However, I always remind them animals such as red foxes have enough natural food in mangroves. The foxes catch fish, rats, lizards and such small creatures! You don’t need to worry about them at all,” Al Rumaithi said.

He shared his experiences in marine conservation, as he will be part of several activities related to the sixth edition of the World Ocean Summit, which is held from Tuesday to Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the very first time in the Middle East.

Tourists visiting the mangroves on boats and kayaks are often fortunate to spot red foxes at the first stop itself in the Mangrove National Park, he said.

One of the interesting aspects of his job is enjoying happiness of tourists and kayakers. “These mangroves leave everyone happy! I can see relaxed faces. Children keep on smiling and play around, reminding me the value of nature,” the ranger said.

“I try to connect with wilderness and feel its joy! That is why I like this job. I don’t like sitting at an office whole day!” Al Rumaithi said.

He dreams to make a documentary one day about Abu Dhabi’s mangroves and his experiences of conservation.

Three years on the job, keeping a vigilant watch with his colleagues on three protected areas — Mangrove National Park, Al Saadiyat Marine National Park, and Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Areas — the ranger always feel a sense of contentment for his contribution to conservation of valuable natural assets.

“The benefits offered by mangroves are beyond our imagination. They effectively scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and act as a nursery for fish and hundreds of other marine species. More than 60 beautiful bird species also thrive on these forests!” he explained.

Flamingo is his favourite bird. “When they turn up in groups, it is a wonderful view! At Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Areas, you can find thousands of them — it is a nice experience. I have tried counting them but in futile!”

At Al Saadiyat Marine National Park, he enjoys watching dugongs, turtles and many species of fish.

Intruders

He has not come across any hunters but encountered intruders inside the protected areas. “Once I caught a man [a western national] while catching fish in a prohibited area. He said he never want to take the fish he caught but enjoyed catching and releasing them back into water. When I checked it was true.”

The intruder claimed ignorance about trespassing into a protected area, which was convincing. “I issued a warning to him and let him go,” Al Rumaithi said.

How to visit Mangrove forest and enjoy wildlife

Abu Dhabi’s coastal areas are rich in mangrove forests. There are already an estimated 70 square kilometres of forest across the Emirate. Mangrove National Park in the city has more than 19 square kilometres of forest.

Mangroves acts as a natural windbreak, protecting against tidal surges and purifying the surrounding water.

It is also highly effective in scrubbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus contributing to the fight against global warming.

Mangrove National Park within the city is a real haven for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and bird lovers.

A select number of tour operators have set up a range of activities and adventures. Here is their list:-

https://www.ead.ae/Pages/Mangrove-National-Park.aspx

Source: The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD)