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Bu Tinah and conservation go together

posted on 03/08/2010: 1957 views



Voting for Bu Tinah implies voting for conservation as it's indeed a wonder of the nature that such a rich and sustainable model of biodiversity flourishes in such a harsh climate.

No wonder Bu Tinah Island has found its way to the final list along with 28 others to be named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The serene island lies 130kms west off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Some of nature's most endangered animals thrive on the island, and coral reefs boom here. Far from the bustle of the city, the quietness of the island beckons. One can hear nothing but the chirping of birds and light waves splashing against the shores. This piece of paradise will vie with other places of breathtaking beauty like the Great Barrier Reef and the 
Amazon Forest.

"The reason we think Bu Tinah should be one of the wonders of nature is because despite our arid and harsh climate, we have a rich, sustainable biodiversity,” said Laila Yousef Al Hassan, spokesperson, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD). Most people had never heard of the island or its inhabitants until the voting campaign was 
initiated, said Laila.

An international campaign launched in March by EAD, under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of EAD, garnered attention from voters around the world and succeeded in adding Bu Tinah to the final list out of 447 potential wonders in 224 countries. The ongoing drive included the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to gather supporters, a voting booth road show that collected votes from 17 organisations to date, and messages featured on public transport to promote awareness. In the hope of receiving more supporters, voting booths have now been shifted to the Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal One through which thousands of people pass on a daily basis. This move will help visitors from all over the world discover more about Abu Dhabi's natural heritage, according to Laila.

"We want people to know that they are voting for conservation, that Bu Tinah is a quiet, peaceful haven where animals visit, feed, rest and nest,” she said. Untainted by mankind and protected from human beings, the location is set within the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. Is a hot spot for a variety of creatures such as the rare hawksbill turtle, dugong, several species of dolphins such as the Indo-pacific humpback and bottlenose dolphins, ospreys, Socotra cormorants and migratory birds. Natural mangroves stand at an average height of five metres and support wildlife including birds, fish and crustaceans. The island, in fact, supports a stable ecosystem, for its frequent visitors.

"We have the highest diversity of Dugong per square metre,” said Laila, adding that the region's waters shelter the second largest population of the shy sea cows in the world.

The herbivorous marine mammal has been deemed ‘vulnerable' under the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, three steps away from extinction. The abundant but critically important sea grass beds that flourish around Bu Tinah provide a rich feeding 
ground for them.

A 2008 survey by IUCN reported that there has been an 84 to 87 per cent decline in the number of mature female hawksbill turtles nesting annually over the last three turtle generations.

As a result, they have been categorised as ‘Critically Endangered' in the Red List and much concern has been raised about the slow-reproducing animals whose numbers have been rapidly dwindling due to loss of nesting areas and degradation of marine habitats around the world. Bu Tinah's shorelines have become a haven for them to lay eggs, giving hope to the species' future.

It is astounding that the coral reefs have adapted to the country's high temperatures and high saline levels, said Laila. Coral reefs usually live under temperatures of 23 degrees to 28 degrees Celsius but those around Bu Tinah flourish under 37 degrees Celsius. "We have globally unique corals that have adapted to survive in the country's harsh environment amid high salinity and hot temperatures,” she said.

This has set the area as a great platform for scientific research to look further into coral reef survival across the world with global warming 
propelling the drive.

"It is very significant that right here in our homeland we are blessed with thriving habitats that serve as a unique living laboratory with key significance for climate change research. Bu Tinah Island hosts globally endangered marine life and critically important habitats,” said Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, Director of Biodiversity Management Sector, EAD.

The new Seven Wonders of Nature will be announced on November 11, 2011.

Voters can place their choices through an online poll. They can also send in an unlimited number of SMSs by sending ‘Bu Tinah' to 3888 (charge Dh2 per text). – Khaleej Times

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