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Conservation in the desert

Published 9 September 2010 under Travelogue • Comments: 11
Conservation in the desert

 Commendable Conservation Accomplishment in Arabic Desert

When one thinks of Dubai, it is of towering sky scrapers that defy gravity, fabulously tempting shopping malls and man-made snow in the desert.  However recently there is a new emerging and gratifying facet to this particular emirate, one of seven “regions” that make up the UAE. With the rapid development of Dubai as a major business centre in the gulf, the government recognised the need to preserve the unique dessert habitat. The government has set aside a large tract of land in Dubai to be now the first ever National Park in the UAE.  

In the 1960s the then ruler of Dubai- Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum- became increasing concerned about the disappearance of the wildlife of the area mostly because of uncontrolled hunting. Starting then, numbers of Arabian Oryx and other desert species were captured and relocated to wildlife reserves and farms (some as far flung as Arizona in USA) with a similar climate and terrain to that of Dubai.   Many years later the Emirates Group built the Al Maha Resort and Spa on a relatively small area with some reintroduced animals within the desert that had undergone a reclamation effort. The success of this prompted extensive research into a sustainable conservation project and the DDCR was proclaimed in 1993. The reserve needed to be representative of all the desert habitats, the shifting sand dunes, the sensitive and life giving gravel beds and have extensive views of the endless desert. With 225 square kilometres of desert the DDCR actually has it all, as well as being located on far-reaching subterranean water reserves at the depths of just 30 odd metres. This is a certainly an unusual sequence of events; the establishment of a luxury resort being the catalyst in the creation of an all-embracing protected area.
The total area of DDCR constitutes almost 5 % of the surface area of Dubai, an enormous involvement in conservation for a relatively small and highly developed region. In September 1999 six thousand two hundred indigenous tree and shrubs were planted and initially supported with irrigation. Now, well established, these trees and shrubs have completely transformed the desert and provide food and shelter for a spectrum of dessert animals and as a seed bank that will germinate naturally and provide sustainable flora for the reserve.
The iconic Arabian Oryx has come to symbolise the success of conservation in Dubai. This once wide spread antelope was over-hunted extensively and the last Oryx in the wild (before reintroduction) died in 1972. During the reintroduction process into DDCR a premium price was paid for 100 odd Arabian Oryx purchased from zoos and private breeding projects. In DDCR they now number somewhere between three and four hundred individuals- yet another indicator of the triumph the reserve has attained in a relatively short period in time. In the 1960s when the then ruler of Dubai initiated the wildlife breeding programs the indigenous Arabian Gazelles were all but extinct. The DDCR is successfully breeding these dainty antelope that now roam free in the dessert as they did many years ago.

Other enthralling mammal species include desert foxes, wild cats, gazelles, hedgehogs and various gerbils. The reptiles are fascinating with noticeable adaptations for desert life like the brightly coloured sand-fish and geckos and various well camouflaged vipers. Some of the species of birds bear a close resemblance to ours with a range of adaptations. While we were visiting, there was great excitement with sightings of a golden eagle reaffirming once again the success of this rehabilitation of the Arabian Desert. The eagle was resident for a week or so and was obviously getting enough to eat.
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Comments

Stephen
Sat, 14 May 2011 05:01:16 +0200
Hi Judy

I cant believe that it has been a year since you guys were out here in the Arabian Desert sharing some of the magical sites and areas of the D.D.C.R.

I just have to thank you for a great article and I am just thankful that I can be part of such a amazing project.

Looking forward to seeing you both soon

Stephen

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