By Devinder Kumar
GANDHINAGAR; India (IDN) – The United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has recognized the United Arab Emirates’ Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) as a Migratory Species Champion Plus because of its contributions to the conservation of medium-sized marine mammal Dugong and African-Eurasian birds of prey.
The Dugong is a large, slow-moving animal which feeds on seagrass. The calm, shallow waters along the Abu Dhabi coastline offer the perfect environment for this marine mammal and are home to an estimated 3,000 individuals, part of the second-largest Dugong population in the world, shared with three other Gulf countries.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Dugongs are vulnerable to extinction with the global population declining by 30 per cent in the last 60 years.
Raptors, especially some species of falcons, are also very important for the UAE, not only in terms of conservation value but also because of their special role in traditional falconry. Unfortunately, many species of raptors are also under increasing pressure with many vulnerable to extinction from human threats.
The Migratory Species Champion Plus distinction was bestowed on the opening day of the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CMS from February 17 to 22, 2020 in Gandhinagar, a city in the western Indian state of Gujarat.
Launched in 2014, the CMS Migratory Species Champion Programme recognizes significant contributions supporting the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and is open to governments, companies, organizations, and individuals.
EAD has already received two such awards for its commitment towards conservation of large, slow-moving animals known as Dugongs and their habitats, as well as birds of prey in Africa and Eurasia, for the period 2015-2019.
At the high-level meeting, EAD and the CMS Secretariat also decided to extend their decade-long partnership, protecting Dugongs, African-Eurasian birds of prey and other migratory animals of regional importance.
Established in the United Arab Emirates’ capital in 2009, CMS Office-Abu Dhabi is the only regional hub for the Convention outside its headquarters in Bonn, Germany. With the extension of the partnership agreement, CMS Office-Abu Dhabi will continue its UAE operations for another four years.
“We value our partnership with CMS Office-Abu Dhabi in the UAE and are proud of all the important conservation outcomes we have achieved together across the ranges of many threatened migratory species since the partnership started in 2009,” said Rd. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD.
Among the achievements are the successful development of scientific tools to better study dugongs and seagrass habitats, supporting grassroots initiatives in developing countries, and facilitating adoption of strategic policies for the protection of species at high-level international fora. The history and achievements of the CMS-EAD partnership are described in a special 10th anniversary section of the CMS website launched in December 2019.
“These Champion Plus awards serve to highlight the leading role that EAD and the UAE are playing in migratory species conservation internationally,” said Lyle Glowka, Head of CMS Office-Abu Dhabi. “Their long-term commitment and generous support are immeasurable.”
“Following a decade of fruitful cooperation, we have set an ambitious agenda for the immediate future and we look forward to collaborating with EAD and with other important national and regional stakeholders,” said Glowka.
One of the important new initiatives spearheaded by CMS Office-Abu Dhabi will provide a detailed, site-specific assessment of seagrass ecosystem services through community capacity-building. The €4.7 million project is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of Germany’s Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
The IKI Seagrass Ecosystem Services Project will run until 2022 in five Dugong Range States. The information collected through this project will be used not only to create better policies, but also to design economic development opportunities connected to Dugong and seagrass conservation.
CMS Office-Abu Dhabi is home to two CMS international agreements — the Memorandum of Understanding concerning the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU) and the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (Dugong MOU). [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 February 2020]
Photo: Serena the Duong. Credit: Donna Kwan
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