Following the recently-announced partnership between the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and The National Aquarium; the largest aquarium in the Middle East, the UAE is set to welcome one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in the region. This facility is located at Al Qana, Abu Dhabi’s upcoming social dining and entertainment waterfront destination. The state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre is set to be one of the largest conservation facilities in the Middle East, focused on biodiversity and the natural local heritage. Staffed by a team of international veterinary and aquarist experts from 15 countries, this facility is central to the partnership. As well as helping hundreds of rescued animals every year, it will also act as an important centre of education for students and the general public.
According to the agreement between both parties, a specialized animal rescue vehicle, of which is the only one of its kind in the region, will soon be on the Abu Dhabi roads responding to wildlife emergencies reported through EAD. All the rescued animals will receive immediate first aid whilst being transported to The National Aquarium facilities for assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and eventual release.
EAD has a long record of attending wildlife emergencies in the emirate and most of the animals that are rescued from the shores are native species to the UAE, such as the green sea turtles. They are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable or endangered species.
Each animal will have a tailored rehabilitation program. This rescue program will go the extra mile to increase its success by doing a pre-release within the aquarium facilities into the UAE’s Natural Treasures Lagoon. This is an opportunity for the marine life to utilise more space under the experts' supervision in controlled environments to encourage natural behaviours before being released back into the wild. The public will have a unique opportunity to visit the animals during their pre-release phase. They will learn about the animals and understand more about the challenges these creatures encounter in the wild. More importantly, the public will learn how we, as humans, can reduce the negative impacts of our behaviour on their natural environments.
Maitha Hameli, Specialist at Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi said: “Our efforts to monitor and protect turtles date back to 1998, thus our partnership with The National Aquarium at Al Qana, is essential for our commitment to marine conservation and care of injured marine wildlife. Our mission is to protect and preserve the marine ecosystems and the new rehabilitation facility staffed with The National Aquarium’s world-class team of experts is an important addition to reach our goal and protect species that are threatened with extinction. “We are confident in the quality and readiness of the facilities at the rehabilitation centre. When a call came in regarding an endangered sea turtle, we conducted the rescue and carefully transported her to The National Aquarium’s rehabilitation facility for assessment.”.
Anne Bourbon, Manager of Education & Conservation at The National Aquarium added: “At The National Aquarium, we are all committed to protecting the Arabian Gulf’s wildlife and raising awareness around broad environmental issues. Education is an essential part of the process of connecting the young and adults alike with the stories of these rescued animals. The first and most recently rescued turtle was brought to us by EAD and we can’t wait for the public to meet her and learn her story. She is an endangered green turtle and under the care of our experts, she has now passed the critical stage. A key part of our rehabilitation process will be time spent in the UAE’s Natural Treasures lagoon for her to acclimatise to her natural environment prior to release. We anticipate the turtle to be spending six to nine months in our lagoon.
Beatriz Maquieira, Curator at The National Aquarium said: “We are ready to offer full veterinary treatment and in-house care for the rescued animals. Our facilities are fully equipped with the latest technology. We have at the service of the animals a hospital, ICU, and rehabilitation rooms for both marine and small terrestrial animals alike, all this with the support of experienced aquarists and vets." The National Aquarium’s vision is to become a role model in the field of conservation education through community engagement to preserve UAE heritage and helping build a more sustainable future.