UAE sees no let-up in conservation efforts - GulfToday

UAE sees no let-up in conservation efforts

UAE wildlife

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has supported 2,150 projects in over 180 countries, targeting more than 1,400 different species and subspecies.

Conservation of the earth has always held a lot of gravity. We are all aware of the damaging effects of a depleting forest cover and wildlife, specially endangered species, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. But it pays to save your environment or nature.

Researchers aver that expanding areas under conservation could yield a return of at least $5 for every $1 spent just by giving nature more room to thrive.

That in turn would give a fillip to agricultural and forestry yields, improve freshwater supplies, preserve wildlife and help fight climate change – all of which would boost global economic output on average by about $250 billion annually, according to a recent report.

The United Nations is pushing for governments to collectively set aside 30 per cent of the planet’s land and sea areas for conservation when they meet next year in China to negotiate a new wildlife pact. Currently, about 17 per cent of the world’s land falls into areas that receive some form of protection.

Scientists have said the world may need more than 30 per cent to survive, if not thrive.

The report, however, was not without some positive signs. For example, the endangered Japanese crested ibis, which had once almost vanished, started to produce chicks in the wild after conservationists released captive-bred birds.

In Pakistan, a programme is protecting the snow leopard by conserving Himalayan ecosystems.

This comes against the backdrop of the fact that humanity’s impact on the natural world over the last five decades has been nothing short of cataclysmic: since 1970 close to 70 per cent of wild animals, birds and fish have vanished, according to a WWF assessment.

Last year a UN panel on biodiversity warned that a million species face extinction as human-made activity has already severely degraded three quarters of land on Earth. These are alarming figures.

But there is cause for comfort. In this sphere, the UAE has been making wholehearted efforts to improve the environment, the pandemic notwithstanding.

It has even made moves to help small grassroots organisations whose conservation activities have been crimped by the financial fallout of the virus.  

The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, MBZ Fund, on Tuesday announced it would expand its grant-making criteria to help partners meet core emergency operating needs precipitated by the COVID-19 crisis.

The MBZ Fund will enable grassroots organisations on the frontlines to apply relief grants of up to $25,000 that can be used to cover core operating expenses, such as staff salaries, office rent, and other essential overhead costs.

Many grantees highlighted the loss of revenue for their organisations due to park, zoo, and aquarium closures, the decline in eco-tourism, and the reduction in student enrolment for courses and fieldwork experiences.

Conservation organisations cannot protect threatened species if they cannot meet basic needs like staff salaries and rent.

Since 2009, the Fund has supported 2,150 projects in over 180 countries, targeting more than 1,400 different species and subspecies. Many grantees have succeeded in rediscovering lost species, discovering new ones, and reducing threats to countless others.

In this regard, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s efforts are praiseworthy. Earlier this year, it released a new digital version of its 2019 Annual Report.

It highlights the eco agency’s monitoring of the Arabian Oryx population in Abu Dhabi that has now reached 5,000, now the largest herd in the world, and protecting the dolphins that live in Abu Dhabi waters, including the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin of which the capital is known for having the highest number in the world.

The wheels of the organisations involved in conservation should be well-oiled. In this context, it is heartening to note that the UAE has shown no let-up in its support for such measures.

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