Ras Al-Khor is truly a miracle sanctuary. If you have ever driven by you will notice a solitary green land floating on its own blue waters with birds swooping over it, travelling in their own time, nature's time with no deadlines or rush hours to beat.

By Lubna Al-midfa (Staff Reporter)

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Published: Fri 1 Jul 2005, 1:45 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:16 PM

One of the few rare existing nature sites, located at the very end of the Dubai Creek, it has become a coastal wetland of great importance on a global level. Just recently, the Dubai Municipality, the National Bank of Dubai, in collaboration with the WWF have constructed three bird hides/towers for visitors to have a closer view of the wildlife and many species of birds.

Covering a 6.2 sqkm area surrounded by a buffer zone, the sanctuary is home to a diversity of plant and animal life. The existence of various ecosystems-mangroves, mudflats, lagoons, sabkhas, reed beds and shrub lands and the rich food supply is what attracts the thousands of birds in winter especially. 266 species of fauna, 47 of flora and around various species of birds that peak up to a number of 2500 in winter due to the migratory birds, make it a unique sit to conserve.

Redha H.Salman, head of Environment Protection and Safety section of Dubai Municipality explains "Ras Al-Khor Wildlife with its high species diversity and density is one of the critical staging grounds for a number of globally threatened water birds. Important among them are Osprey, demoiselle Crane, Dalmatian Pelican, Black stork, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Glossy Ibis, Spotted Redshank, Ferruginous Duck and Broad-billed Sandpiper".

What many don't understand is why biological diversity in such areas is among the world's most productive environments. Not only do they provide the water and primary productivity on which an endless number of plants and animal species depend on for their survival. But the interaction of physical, biological and chemical components of wetlands such as soil, water, plant and animal, enables them to perform other vital functions such as water storage, shoreline stabilisation, erosion control, water purification through retention of nutrients sediments and pollutants..

Established in 1985, it was officially declared a protected area only in 1998 when brought under the management of the Dubai municipality. The wetland survived when the creek was dredged in the 1970s. Originally the area was a wide intertidal area with large mudflats. It was the dredging operations in the 1970s and 1980s that transformed it in to a well navigated water way. The survival of natural habitat is what attracted birds in large numbers and still does till today.

The site faces obvious threats which the research team of the Dubai municipality is monitoring through research activities such as inventory building of biodiversity, birds migration and breeding.

Simple things like visitors walking on to the mudflats to have a closer look at the flamingoes can destroy the natural habitat. Vehicles can destroy vegetation and bird nests as well as disturb the bird population. The infiltrations of cats and rats, erosion, dredging, pollution, the increase in real estate, are some of the factors that affect the wetland. That is why the Ras Al-Khor inspectors with help from the Dubai Police patrol the sanctuary on a 24 hours basis.

Redha H.Salman explains what the current research has shown "Research results showed that the site is an important Bird area (IBA) categorised by Birdlife international. The site is also qualified as a "wetland of international importance" as per RAMSAR Convention. Nearly a dozen species of birds' breed here".

The newly built bird hides, shaped in the form of UAE's traditional wind towers, give visitors the chance to view the diverse bird species without disturbing their natural habitat.

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