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Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network: Celebrating biodiversity and bonding with nature

Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network: Celebrating biodiversity and bonding with nature
21 Mar 2024 10:37


In line with the Environmental Centennial 2071, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) is spearheading efforts to preserve the UAE’s natural heritage for future generations.

The EAD has set guidelines for Abu Dhabi to become a global leader in environmental conservation in the next 50 years.

  • Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network: Celebrating biodiversity and bonding with nature


By providing habitats for biodiversity and research, Abu Dhabi’s natural reserves contribute to the EAD’s mission to pioneer environmental conservation.

A key component instrumental in taking this mission forward is the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network, which is the world’s largest network, in terms of numbers of protected areas.

According to the EAD, there are 19 protected areas in the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network.
Here is a look at the major highlights in the network:

Al Wathba Fossil DunesLocated 45 kilometres to the east of Abu Dhabi, Al Wathba Fossil Dunes is one of the biggest concentrations of fossil dunes.  

  • Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network: Celebrating biodiversity and bonding with nature


Over 1,700 fossil dunes are located over 7 square kilometres in the Al Wathba Fossil Dunes Protected Area.

According to geologists, the age of the fossil formations is estimated to be more than four million years old.
Al Wathba Wetland ReserveEstablished by the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is the first legally protected area in Abu Dhabi and was inducted as a Ramsar site in 2013.

Home to a sizable population of greater flamingos, the reserve is most well-known for its abundance of water life, different bird species and plant species.

Jebel Hafeet National ParkStanding at 1,240 metres, Jebel Hafeet is the second-highest mountain in the UAE and the highest point in Abu Dhabi.

It is home to the Arabian caracal, the dwarf palm, and more than 500 historic burial tombs that date back 5,000 years.

Abu Dhabi Falcon HospitalFounded in 1999, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is dedicated to the falcon and is a preeminent centre for avian care and research, caring for more than 11,000 birds each year.

Mangrove National Park

As a component of the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network, Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi is an important biological resource that supports a wide variety of plant and bird species. Mangroves are vital in fighting climate change as they  protect the shorelines against storms, tsunamis, and erosion.

  • Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network: Celebrating biodiversity and bonding with nature


Qasr Al Sarab Protected AreaOver 30 bird species, 13 reptile species, and ten mammal species call the 308km² Qasr Al Sarab Protected Area home.

Among them is the Arabian Oryx, which has been reintroduced after becoming extinct.

Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning CentreThe Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre, situated in Al Ain Zoo, offers interactive exhibits and multimedia materials, featuring five galleries: the Sheikh Zayed Tribute Hall, Abu Dhabi’s Desert Over Time, Abu Dhabi’s Living World, People of the Desert and Looking to the Future. The centre offers insights into the UAE’s natural environment.

Sir Bani Yas IslandThe largest island in Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, was formerly Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s private property.

It’s now a wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary with adventure safaris, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, hiking, and snorkeling. Many species can be found on the island, such as the Somali ostrich, gazelle, deer, giraffes, dolphins, and Arabian oryx.

Jewels of Abu Dhabi at Umm Al Emarat ParkThe Jewels of Abu Dhabi, gifted to Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the EAD, on Mother’s Day, are five life-sized bronze sculptures of Abu Dhabi’s iconic species: the dugong, greater flamingo, hawksbill turtle, Arabian oryx, and saker falcon. They are permanently placed in Umm Al Emarat Park, situated in Al Mushrif area of the capital.

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