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Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund champions global bird conservation

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund champions global bird conservation
19 Apr 2024 14:38

ABU DHABI (ALETIHAD)

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZF) has provided more than 390 grants of more than Dh14.3 million since its establishment to support the conservation of threatened bird species worldwide.

MBZF’s commitment to the conservation of bird species is rooted in the vision of the UAE leadership, which champion conservation efforts for the falcon and houbara bustard within the UAE and on the international stage.

MBZF recognises the pivotal role bird species play in ecological balance and the overall well-being of ecosystems. As indicators of environmental health, birds are vital pollinators, nutrient recyclers, and natural pest controllers, contributing to a sustainable and thriving planet.

Nicolas Heard, Acting Director General of Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, said: “Birds are a varied group of species (from sparrows to penguins to ostriches and falcons), which play a broad range of roles in protecting our ecosystems and the health of our planet. They help by disbursing seeds in forests, providing cleaning services in all habitats worldwide and provide us with joy through their colours and voices.

“Sadly, many birds are threatened with extinction, especially those which occur on islands or have lost the ability to fly, as well as the raptor birds, such as vultures and eagles. We must work together to conserve these wonderful creatures by protecting them from the many threats they face.”

Notable MBZF Bird Conservation Projects

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has supported the Red-fronted Macaw conservation project led by Asociación Armonía in Bolivia. With a population of around 1,200 individuals and facing threats from habitat destruction, poaching and illegal trade, the Red-fronted Macaw is critically endangered. MBZF's support enables Asociación Armonía to protect the macaws in four regions by focusing on community involvement and habitat preservation.

The Red-fronted Macaw Community Reserve, a key reproductive site, boasts at least 20 breeding pairs annually. Critically, during the pandemic, MBZF continued funding to support community tourism and habitat restoration. Armonía's innovative approach includes wooden nestboxes, habitat restoration efforts, and an agroforestry system, creating a blueprint for successful conservation with a tourism angle benefiting local communities.

Beyond species conservation, MBZF also celebrates individuals who dedicate themselves to protecting endangered bird species. Locally, the Fund supports Sami Majeed and his efforts to protect the critically endangered Omani Owl. Majeed and his team conduct night surveys (travelling around 200km per night) within the Wadi Wurayah National Park in Fujairah, using acoustic and camera surveys to detect the elusive species. In 2020, Majeed secured the first daytime record of the Arabian Spotted Eagle Owl in the UAE, and in 2021 was able to get the only visual record of the Omani Owl in the UAE.

Sami Ullah Majeed, Park Ranger, Fujairah Environment Authority, said: “The impact of the MBZF funding goes beyond the equipment. It reignited my connection to these incredible creatures and reaffirmed my commitment to their well-being. This grant has given me the means to amplify my efforts, and I can't express how much that means to me.”

In the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, MBZF is also supporting a team in their fight to prevent the native Fatu Hiva monarch species from going extinct. With less than 20 individuals and only 5 breeding pairs remaining, the species has faced catastrophic decline since the 1990s and is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

The Ornithological Society of Polynesia, supported by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, is spearheading an ambitious initiative to enhance anti-malaria management and supplementary feeding programs for the species. Feeders placed around nests are topped up at least three times a week to strengthen fledgling fitness, and money from the grant has been used to purchase mosquito traps around active nests during incubation, as newborns are more susceptible to malaria.

Camera traps have recorded every fledgling born in 2022 utilising the feeders, validating the success of this strategy. The feeders are withdrawn when the birds learn vital foraging skills during the emancipation period.

Global Species Conservation Initiatives

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund provides targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives worldwide, recognises species conservation leaders, and elevates species' importance in the broader conservation debate. 

Reflecting the deep-rooted commitment of both the government and the people of Abu Dhabi to preserve their natural heritage, the Fund has supported more than 2,700 projects across 160 countries to protected more than 1,700 species from extinction.

Source: Aletihad - Abu Dhabi
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