Safeguarding nature in the GCC

A closer look at GCC's environmental conservation movements and success stories
Safeguarding nature in the GCC
Nature reserve in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

As the inhabitants of our world are constantly subjected to environmental threats, more species than not are at risk of extinction. Nature conservation efforts, programs, and laws across the globe have been, and are being, put in place in order to reduce harm and preserve nature’s wellbeing. Authorities in the GCC are committed to a multitude of conservation efforts and have dedicated countless resources to initiatives that protect natural wildlife.

In Saudi Arabia

Given the vast amounts of unpopulated land that make up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, several policies were put in place to limit human encroachment and allocate large amounts of land to preserve wildlife. Nature conservation policies in Saudi Arabia were first implemented in 1978. Their first reserve compromised a total of 82,700 square kilometers. Several years later, in 1986, the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development was established with the aim of organizing and overseeing conservation efforts.

Besides creating and educating on the protection of plots of land, species-specific programs have been launched in order to protect the endangered Houbara Bustard, aka the Chlamydotis Undulata Macqueenii. The bird was classified as endangered due to hunting and changes in land use. The Prince Saud Al-Faisal Center for Wildlife Research set out in 1989, to prevent local extinction by facilitating a self-sustaining Houbara population. By 1991, the Center had succeeded in preserving a community of 2,000 Houbaras who will then be released into the wild.

nature conservation
The Houbara bustard, native to Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom’s largest reserve covers a massive 130,700 square kilometers. The King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve houses around 300 animal species native to the region.

In the United Arab Emirates

Earlier this month, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Mariam bin Mohammed Almheiri attended a meeting for the conservation of migratory birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia. The meeting, hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, aimed to address critical challenges facing migratory birds, and also determine the best practices for halting the decline of globally endangered raptor populations. More than half of Africa, Europe, and Asia’s migratory birds are threatened with extinction.

Almheiri stated, “Today’s meeting reaffirms that environmental conservation is a collective commitment and shared responsibility, with the power to unite us in a common cause: securing the future of our planet… As signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey, we are committed to working with global partners to ensure a secure future for these birds.”

Read more: Sustainable travel: 3 tips for a greener journey in the Middle East

The Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue, located in Abu Dhabi, is the MENA’s first integrated marine research, rescue and rehabilitation, and education center. The director, Elise Marquis, is a specialist in marine ecology with a passion for understanding the world’s functioning marine ecosystems, along with a focus on coastal habitat restoration.

The center heavily collaborates with the government and academic institutions, particularly when it comes to their rescue and research programs. Their involvement with Abu Dhabi’s wildlife rescue network, Environment Agency, supports their rescue, rehabilitation, and return program.

“Our vision at Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue is to lead marine conservation and foster environmental protection across the UAE, as well as the wider region,” said Marquis. Their vision invites the community to contribute. In line with the UAE’s 2023 Year of Sustainability, Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue is organizing activities and events that involve and educate the public. Beach clean-ups, specialized workshops, and scientific conferences are all on the schedule.

Conserving community

Although nature conservation laws ensure an abundance of physical spaces remain intact, there’s a lot that can be done with raising awareness and inspiring sustainability. Conservation laws are also about fostering a mindful community that advocates for environmental protection across the board.

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