One of the largest wildlife conservation centers in the region has opened in the UAE to care for rescued wild animals and is already looking after its first patient — a female green sea turtle
The state-of-the-art facility in Al Qana, an up-and-coming waterfront district of Abu Dhabi, boasts the only specialized animal rescue vehicle in the region that responds to wildlife emergencies.
The new rehabilitation center has an international staff of veterinary and aquatic experts from 15 countries focusing on biodiversity and the natural heritage of the UAE and wider region. It will also serve as an important educational facility.
The center is the result of a partnership between the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the National Aquarium, the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Curator Beatriz Maquieira said the aquarium was ready to “offer full veterinary treatment and in-house care” with the latest technology, a hospital, intensive care unit and rehabilitation rooms for both marine and small terrestrial animals.
The center also has its own Natural Treasures Lagoon to give marine animals more space in which to learn or re-learn natural behaviors during the last stages of their recovery.
Most of the animals rescued by the EAD are species native to the UAE, such as green sea turtles, which are classified as vulnerable or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All rescued animals will be assessed and treated with a tailor-made rehabilitation program at the National Aquarium before being released back into the wild.
The public will be able to view and learn about the animals during their rehabilitation and “pre-release” phase.
“Education is an essential part of the process of connecting the young and adults alike with the stories of these rescued animals,” said Anne Bourbon, manager of education and conservation at the National Aquarium.
“The first and most recently rescued turtle was brought to us by EAD and we can’t wait for the public to meet her and learn her story, She is an endangered green turtle and under the care of our experts, she has now passed the critical stage.”
The turtle is expected to stay in the lagoon for six to nine months, added Bourbon.
The UAE first began rescuing and studying turtles in 1998. Maitha Hameli, a specialist at EAD said the agency’s partnership with the National Aquarium was “essential for our commitment to marine conservation and care of injured marine wildlife.”
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.