Dubai – Emirates Tourism Magazine
Ras Al Khor Wild life Sanctuary (RAKWS) lies among a series of waterways where green islands scatter, making a favorable wildlife environment and a perfect habitat for thousands of bird species living on it.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is listed as the first UAE’s firs RAMSAR Wetland Site of global importance. It is also considered as an internationally acknowledged habitat for birds, as per Birdlife International. The Wetland is located at the tail-end of Dubai Creek (Khor) that extends over 14 km within the area linking the Arabian Gulf to Al Awir Desert. Covering a 6.2 km2 area, the sanctuary hosts approximately 450 species of fauna, including 270 bird species and nearly 47 floral species. It is also known as a habitat for a large number of flamingos and mangroves.
A tourist environment
RAKWS represents a tourist environment and a resort for a number of migratory birds, on top of which is the attractive flamingo. It also offers an opportunity for those interested in monitoring the movement of flamingos, which are locally known as fanteer birds, and other water birds. Besides, tourist – accompanied by special guides – can tour around the sanctuary to acquaint with the beauty of wildlife environment, which has recently registered the reproduction and roosting of Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrines) as a precedent in 2011. Such birds laid eggs there despite summer temperature and high humidity levels. RAKWS officers and guides registered the roosting of plovers and the hatching of some eggs at unusual places, like the mudflats (Sabkha) and the mid-roads.
More than 60 thousand bird species a year
A top wildlife sanctuary, RAKWS attracts a massive gathering place of migratory birds that cross the region each year. During the winter only, more than 60 thousand bird species approach the reserve, including flamingos, huge vultures, diverse hawks, gulls, owls, fish-hunting birds, cormorants, herons,terns, sandpipers, black-winged stilts, and other species that turn the Emirati sky at such season into a wonderful canvas and the sanctuary as a whole into a major station on the map of annual bird north-south migrations.
RAKWS is one of the few havens where Kentish plovers reproduce, at a time in which the whole species is witnessing a noticeable decline in its numbers around the world. This point is worth study and investigation, especially as it proves the sanctuary’s ability to attract rare birds.
Types of migratory birds
Among the famous migratory birds hosted by the sanctuary are the flamingos (fanteers; a local name denoting large size for a bird) which feed on local shrimps, its main meal during the breeding season. It is considered as a local winter migrant bird and it commonly exists near mudflats and creeks on the Gulf coast. As for reef herons, they have been there for hundreds of years, knowing that the Emirati forefathers used to call it “bukhasifi”. It migrates to RAKWS from august to April, forming scattered flocks and staying by shallow waters in search for fish. It is considered as belonging to the heron species.
Another species hosted in RAKWS is Eurasian Wigeon, a dabbling duck genus, which makes a whistling sound. It starts to migrator to the UAE during the months of moderate weather, like March, and increases in January. Its preferable location is shallow waters and creeks.
The wetland also hosts around 300 animal species, and thus it – belonging to the Emirati environment – is marked for biological diversity. It is a model wildlife sanctuary for local and migratory birds, being a safe haven for them away from pollution and destruction.
The aquatic ambience is considered a filter that provides sufficient humidity and hence offers an optimum climate for fish, invertebrates and reptiles, besides herons, ospreys, gulls, cormorants and plovers. Noticeably, the little grebe (Tachybaptusruficollis) which usually existed in Europe and parts of Africa, is now frequently witnessed in the Arabian Peninsula, especially in RAKWS.
Development of RAKWS
The past years witnessed initiation of engineering and construction works related to the development of RAKWS, being a unique tourist project that enforces the tourist status of the UAE. RAKWS is one of the major reserves that constitute a quantum leap in Emirati eco-tourism. Besides, a group of towers are dedicated to monitoring and observing birds in the sanctuary, being equipped with seats and sound amplifiers and places for persons with special needs. Moreover, plans have been developed in cooperation with Dubai police for the protection of the sanctuary against pollution and intrusion, while scientists are employed to work on investigating the bird behavior.
Tidal water bodies represent a suitable environment for the breeding of invertebrate animals, like worms and mollusks. It is thus a fit feeding and breeding station for numerous migratory birds in winter, like flamingos, that numbers up to 25 thousand in winter, as well as wading birds. The sanctuary also hosts nearly 88 bird species, nine of which list among the internationally important birds. According to studies in progress, about 500 plant and animal species are registered in the sanctuary, while nearly a 1000 bird species permanently live there. The sanctuary is also marked for its diverse topography, including mud flats, sandy beaches, coral reefs and mangrove forests. Hence, it enjoys an optimum wildlife climate.
Dubai Municipality, supervising the sanctuary through its Environment Department, is keen to maintain a balanced environment for biological diversity in RAKWS and a fit climate for the breeding of endangered plant and animal species. Hence, it provided 45000 mangrove seedlings, since mangroves are considered as a shelter and source of food for numerous marine organisms and a fence for the protection of the soil and the coastline.