For nearly 20 years, Emirates has been helping to support a sustainable and balanced ecosystem in the Dubai Desert Wildlife Refuge (DDCR) with ongoing investments worth over AED 28 million (US$ 7,6 million). This fund helps to protect Dubai's unique desert habitat, brimming with native flora and fauna of all forms and sizes, as well as raising awareness of the rich natural beauty of the UAE's terrestrial ecosystems.
DDCR is a massive 225 square kilometers protected area, accounting for approximately 5% of Dubai's total land area, and is Dubai's largest land area reserved for a single project. This area preserves the outstanding wildlife and resilient vegetation of the UAE's vibrant ecosystem, and is today home to more than 560 species and 31.000 native trees. More than 29.000 of these trees are now sustainable without irrigation. For example, the indigenous Ghaf tree (Prosopis cineraria) can reach the water table in the DDCR thanks to its roots that can reach up to 30 meters. While many people think that the harsh and ever-changing habitat of the desert is unproductive for wildlife or vegetation, the Emirates and DDCR's joint efforts are not very helpful. It has enabled many species to survive and thrive, and the reserve has witnessed some of the most important desert conservation achievements of recent years. Here are some of the animals that these conservation efforts benefited from:
More than 1300 Desert gazelles, gazelles and oryx continue to thrive: The delicate ungulates of just 230 have grown steadily since the DDCR's resettlement and breeding program began, while natural and sustainable development of free-range mammal populations contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem. contributes to its goal. A further 171 Arabian Antelopes have been reintroduced to other protected areas in the UAE.
Birdlife prospering: More than 2800 Houbara (Chlamydotis macqueenii) have been included in DDCR's resettlement program since 2010, and birds can fly freely in and out of this conservation area. DDCR also has a healthy population of Pharaoh eagles, and with natural breeding south of the reserve, we'll soon be able to see owls flying around as well. The reserve is also an important hunting ground for the endangered nubian vulture, and the black vulture, which rarely visits the UAE, has also been noted to have visited the area on several occasions.
Species diversity in the DDCR has more than doubled: Careful management of the protected area combined with the promotion of natural processes has helped rewild desert habitat. In 2003, the DDCR's species list consisted of about 150 species. Today, there are more than 560 species of plants, trees, birds, mammals, reptiles and arthropods in the protected area.
DDCR has also become a sustainable tourism destination with authentic desert experiences, carefully selected activities that do not harm the natural habitats of local flora and fauna. DDCR runs a strict “Approved Trip” accreditation process for tour operators. Tour operators go through special training to be informed about the vegetation, fauna and sustainable practices to protect the ecosystem of the desert.
DDCR was visited by more than 2021 people in 125.000. A Visitor Center is planned to be created in the conservation area to enrich the visitor experience. The reserve will also be used as a platform to develop educational programs for schools and higher education institutions. Emirates also supports the conservation of Australia's wildlife and forests with Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, a World Heritage-listed Great Blue Mountains region dedicated to protecting wildlife.
Emirates, which also plays an active role in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking and exploitation, is a member of the United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce and a partner in ROUTES (Reducing Illegal Transport of Endangered Species). Emirates SkyCargo, the airline's shipping arm, has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the illegal trade in wildlife, including big cats, elephants, rhinoceroses, anteaters and other wildlife species, and has completely banned hunting.