A new insect has been discovered on Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, adding to the swamp’s existing 238 species of invertebrates. The 4-mm green metallic cuckoo wasp has been named Hedychridium anithaae in honour of the scientist who discovered it, Dr Anita Saji, assistant scientist at the EAD.
“I specialise in invertebrates and we routinely set net traps to collect and study them at the EAD. One day, as I was checking the net at Al Wathba Reserve, I found this new insect and took it to the lab to study it,” Dr Saji told Khaleej Times. “I discovered it in 2009 and identified its family, the cuckoo, which is a wasp type — a parasite. We then sent it to invertebrate experts in Italy for further studies and just got back the full report.”
Over 3,000 species of the Cuckoo Wasps have been discovered so far and most of them were found in desert areas. The new Hedychridium anithaae is yet to be observed to establish its characteristics. “This discovery indicates how much remains both unknown and unexplored from Abu Dhabi’s biodiversity. To have this species named after me is a big honour and we are already preparing for further study of its biology,” said Dr Saji.
The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, about 40km east of Abu Dhabi, was declared a protected area by the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1998. Shaikh Zayed’s vision was to provide a suitable habitat for migratory birds and a breeding area for the greater flamingo. The 5-sqkm reserve has been managed by the EAD ever since.
As it has remained closed to the public and the swamp environment is maintained with added treated sewage water, the wetland is a safe heaven for wildlife, especially birds and insects. Apart from 238 species of invertebrates, there are 11 species of mammals, 10 species of reptiles and more than 250 species of birds living here. The EAD has also documented 37 types of plants.
“This discovery further enhances Al Wathba Wetland Reserve’s status as a biodiversity hotspot that must remain protected. The EAD is proud of this discovery and will continue to ensure effective management and monitoring of species, water quality and vegetation on the reserve,” said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at the EAD.
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