What is: Emirates Nature WWF?
You’ve surely heard all about WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). A non-profit organization with a strong presence in countries around the world, WWF has been working to help local communities conserve natural resources and turn markets and policies toward sustainability for over 50 years.
The UAE has its own branch, Emirates Nature WWF, that aims to drive positive change in environmentalism. Combating climate change means protecting natural habitats. It means partnering with innovative individuals and organizations to achieve scientific solutions. It means keeping sustainability high in mind when it comes to marine ecosystems.
Emirates Nature WWF was founded to conserve the natural heritage of the United Arab Emirates and build a future where people and nature thrive together.
A good part of the Emirates Nature WWF mission lies in helping maintain the marine ecosystems in the mangrove forests sprinkled across the country.
Maintaining ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, is vital not only to provide habitats for wild plants and animals, but also to improve our quality of life. 75% of our crops require pollination, for instance, and the ocean teems with fish that can fill our stomachs. On top of that, they can provide us with clean air, a stable climate, and safe drinking water.
Ecosystems in the UAE are home to thousands of indigenous animals, many of which have been increasingly threatened by urban growth and emissions.
The UAE national Red List issued by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment looked at 1,167 species in the UAE in a recent study. The UAE is home to 58 native species of mammals, 39 land and 19 marine. 57 land reptile species, 13 marine reptile species, and two amphibian species also claim the UAE as their home, along with 167 species of native birds and 598 species of native plants. The study also looked into the 126 species of bony fish, 80 species of cartilaginous fishes, and 66 species of corals that are native to the waters around the UAE.
46.7% of all mammal species in the UAE are endangered.
Small creatures like the Jerboa and the sand dune cat (pictured right) are some of the most vulnerable in the region, but the Arabian oryx, Arabian gazelle, and sand gazelle have joined the list, as well.
The striped hyena has all but disappeared from many of its former habitats, and many believe the Arabian wolf no longer exists in the wild.
Occasionally, animals thought to be extinct do reappear, such as the Rüppell’s Fox, which was photographed in 2018. It is reappearances like this that bring hope that other endangered animals may also still be around.
In the US, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed by President Nixon in 1973, prohibiting the import, export, or taking of fish, wildlife, and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered. There have been over 2000 species listed in this act and only 47 recovered. Recovery of an entire species can take tens of years, and only moves forward in little steps.
60% of sharks, rays, and other cartilaginous fishes are threatened.
These fishes often have large bodies, small brood sizes and slow growth, which can increase the risk of national extinction.
Overfishing is a common issue worldwide, and is closely tied to the capture of unwanted sea life while fishing for a different species. A serious marine threat that causes needless loss of billions of fish worldwide, overfishing damages not only ecosystems but those who make a living catching, selling, and buying fish.
In the past, the UAE served as a hub for the export and re-export of shark products, like shark fins. Recent legislation has reduced this, and continued attention to trade laws can see this influence decrease further.
19% of reptile species in the UAE are endangered.
The Hawksbill turtle is listed as Critically endangered. Its nests and feeding habitats have been lost to rising water levels, and its eggs are often collected. It has also been impacted by construction along coastal areas.
The Spiny-tailed lizard has also been listed as vulnerable due to habit loss during quarrying for gravel and building material.
53% of bird species in the UAE are endangered.
The Houbara Bustard has also been listed as vulnerable due to overhunting by falconers as a traditional practice. This is one instance of tradition, rather than modernization, that has caused a species to become endangered. Other reasons do include habitat loss due to tourism, however.
8% of native plant species in the UAE are endangered.
Among this number is the Grey Mangrove, a species that has been subject to many conservation programs in recent years.
While it may be a bleak outlook at the world, things are slowly improving. Emirates Nature WWF and other non-profit organizations that aim for ways to reduce climate change are a great way to make a difference. 10 species on the brink of extinction have been brought back, and more are likely to be, in the future.
Studies by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change & Environment and initiatives taken from them can be a great jumping off point to help us scale back our emissions and help effect positive climate change in the future.