Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s wildlife conservation efforts to conserve species such as gazelles, houbara bustards, turtles and even some rare plants and other living organisms are incredible and made a great difference around the globe, a senior official said yesterday.
The late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE, was one of the world’s greatest conservationists. His foresight and vision long preceded the present-day global conservationists’ movement, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, told a packed house at the majlis of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces..
“The Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi (EAD), which takes care of more than 50,000 animals throughout the country, the Emirates Wildlife Society and other environmental organisations are committed to helping our society to redefine its relationship with our planet so that people can live in harmony with nature,” Al Mubarak said.
The Arabian oryx is a good example of what the UAE has done to conserve wildlife. These animals had been near extinction but the EAD restored some of the oryx populations and now the UAE is home to 58 per cent of the total population of Arabian oryx.
“Following in the footsteps of the late Shaikh Zayed, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed established the MBZ Species Conservation Fund in a critical time when funds and attention were focused on other issues such as climate change,” she said in a lecture themed ‘For the love of nature: Innovative philanthropy of species conservation worldwide’.
Al Mubarak said the total value of grants provided by the Mohammad Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ Fund) has reached $17 million or around Dh62 million, benefiting 1,800 projects in efforts to protect 1,200 endangered species.
“Over 170 countries from around the world have benefited from the grants provided by the MBZ Fund since its establishment in October 2008, reflecting the UAE’s role in protecting the environment and wildlife and in conserving rare species,” Al Mubarak, who is also the managing director of the fund, said.
The grants have supported research and individual projects to rescue many endangered species in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, fungi, fish, plants and other living
organisms. The MBZ Fund provides its grants without discrimination or bias, based on geographical location or species. It also provides small grants that focus on local projects, to cover the broadest possible range of conservation efforts.
The fund has donated small grants of between $1,000 and $25,000 to conservation projects run by individuals, small organisations or community-based organisations, which are active in the field and make a real difference to species conservation.
Since its establishment, the MBZ Fund has become one of the world’s leading providers of financial grants that directly support conservation projects related to endangered species of plants, animals and fungi.
Wildlife conservation activists also shared their experiences and expressed gratitude to Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed and his conservation fund, which helped bring extinct species back to life.
Biodiversity is a key ingredient in environment conservation policies in the UAE.
The UAE Vision 2021 underscores the importance of the conservation of the rich natural environment of the homeland from the risks of human activities through preventive measures such as reducing carbon emissions and through regulatory measures that protect the fragile ecosystems from urban expansion.
The nation’s leading standing in wildlife conservation is further cemented by the National Programme for the Sustainability of Wildlife, an initiative of the Government Innovation Laboratory.
The UAE has rich experience in protected areas and habitat conservation. Its efforts to preserve habitats and provide safe havens for threatened and endangered species have enabled the country to occupy the top position in the “Marine Protected Areas” criterion in the Global Environmental Performance Index (GDI), according to the 2016 report.
Endangered species breeding receives a lot of attention in the UAE. For example, the Houbara bustards breeding centres in Abu Dhabi, Morocco and Kazakhstan, all overseen by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation in Abu Dhabi, have exceeded their goal of breeding 50,000 Houbara bustards and releasing them in their natural habitats.
There are also five falcon breeding centres, in addition to the breeding programmes of Arabian oryx and African oryx. These programmes managed to reintroduce a considerable number of animals and birds in their habitats in the UAE and abroad.