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Nature reserves

Al Yasat marine protected area

Al Yasat Marine Protected Area (MPA) was declared in 2005 and covers a total area of 482 km². It consists of four islands in the far west of the UAE. They are Upper Yasat, Lower Yasat, Esam and Karsha.

The Al Yasat MPA is expected to provide effective protection for the area's fish stocks at various stages in their life cycles, when they are dependent on specific habitat types or locations. In the absence of fishing pressure inside the protected area, fish will be able to grow to maturity and increase in abundance.


Ecological Importance of Al Yasat

• The islands are surrounded by coral reefs which act as important marine sanctuaries to many species including the already over-exploited Hamour, Shaari and Farsh. The reefs have good coral growth and high coral cover with around 8 coral species present.

• The islands have irregular coastlines with both rocky and sandy shorelines, providing a variety of habitats.

• The MPA has suitable foraging habitats for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtles.

• The MPA also has significant populations of marine fauna including the endangered Green turtle and the Dugong.

• Desert hares are present on the islands, where they make use of the natural landscape and vegetation for shelter, food and breeding.

• Upper Yasat has an important breeding colony of Socotra cormorants, a near-endemic bird species for the UAE, which is one of less than 15 existing colonies in the world.


Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, which lies about 45 minutes' drive from Abu Dhabi city, was declared protected by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late President of the UAE, in 1998 after it was created by an accidental discharge of over-capacity treated sewage water from Al Mafraq Wastewater Treatment Plant. Sheikh Zayed's vision was to provide a suitable habitat for migratory birds and a breeding area for the Greater flamingo.

Today, the reserve covers a total area of 5 km² and is managed by EAD. It is home to nearly 250 species of birds that depend on the wetland for resting, feeding or breeding. It also provides a safe refuge for many species of reptiles, small mammals and insects. Internationally, the Reserve gained recognition when the Greater flamingo successfully bred at Al Wathba in 1999 while a 1993 flamingo breeding attempt at Al Wathba, foiled by human interference after a first chick had hatched, was the first known breeding in the Arabian Peninsula since 1922.

EAD undertakes routine monitoring of the area. Protecting such areas is crucial in the preservation of Abu Dhabi's biodiversity. To ensure the better protection of this fragile area, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is currently closed to the public.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the few urban protected areas in the world, holding approximately more than 450 species of fauna and 47 species of flora. The sanctuary also boasts of various ecosystems from mangroves, mudflats, lagoons and sabkhas to reed beds and shrub lands. RAKWS successfully attracts over 270 species of birds.


The Government of Dubai/His Highness Sheikh Mohammed declared the area a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985, giving protection from interference (only) at his discretion. Thousands of mangrove, Avicenna sp. saplings were planted in 1991 to 1994. The mangrove forest is steadily flourishing since then. A Mangrove Management Plan is currently being developed to maximize the advantages of the expanding forest which is currently showing signs of encroachment to the mudflats. 


Moreover, researches on the biodiversity of the sanctuary are continuously being undertaken.  Lectures are also being conducted (upon request) regarding the sanctuary to schools or any groups interested in the activities being done in the sanctuary.

Wadi Al Helow

Wadi Al Helow was declared protected area in the year 2007 to preserve the mountains and valleys therein. The area is home to reptiles, rodents, birds and fresh water fishes

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