Sun 06-10-2019 13:28 PM
ABU DHABI, 6th October, 2019 (WAM) -- The challenge of conservation of the world’s fauna and flora "transcends borders – and it is the responsibility of us all to work together in securing a future for the next generation and beyond," Razan Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, said today.
She was speaking at the opening session of the 4th conference of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, which began this morning.
"At a time when some are questioning the very existence of the environmental threats that are damaging our Earth, we must work to provide unbiased evidence that empowers sound decision-making for the sake of our planet," Al Mubarak said. "And we need to do this in a framework where every level of society can engage including governments, civil societies, indigenous communities, and our youth."
"While globally, there is progress on addressing certain issues such as plastics pollution, climate change awareness and the increasing pressure the youth of the World are placing on the leaders of the World to act decisively and to respond to the challenges of climate change," she added. "Sadly we have also seen the almost unfettered burning of tropical rainforests and an acceleration in the rate of species extinction. Including species upon which our own survival may well depend, such as the humble honey bee and a myriad of pollinators."
According to a recent report, Al Mubarak said, "One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction - more than ever before in human history - the main, immediate threats to species are the same traditional, exacerbated threats that have endangered species for as long as the conservation movement has been around, over-exploitation, habitat destruction, human development and all the pressure it puts on nature and biodiversity. Climate change is an added threat, but focussing only on climate change, will not save many species from extinction."
EAD is a leading member of the IUCN, an international organisation to which 90 countries belong, along with over 1,000 state agencies and non-governmental organisations. It established its Species Survival Commission, SSC, to focus on threatened species, with the first meeting of the IUCN – SSC chairs being held in Abu Dhabi 11 years ago. Subsequent meetings were held in 2012 and 2015.
At the 2011 meeting, she noted, "The seeds for the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund were sown. We learned from you what you needed to help facilitate your species conservation efforts," she told her audience of around 400 conservationists from around the world.
Since 2009, the Fund has supported more than 2,000 grants with almost US$20 million dollars going to 1,300 species and subspecies."
"Our initial support to the SSC was born from the emotional, spiritual connection of our Nation and its Leaders to nature and its inhabitants. It was not born from a strategic plan, or prioritisation exercise. It was born from our understanding that there is no future where there is no biodiversity and people."
Al Mubarak went on to note that in the Arabian and Gulf region, there was first-hand evidence of the decline and extinction of species. In 2008, she recalled, the Saudi Gazelle was declared extinct by IUCN, while in the UAE, the Hawksbill turtle and the Arabian Leopard are both classed as "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN Red List. Other species are also facing threats, she added, citing the example of the Hammour, or Orange Spotted Grouper, whose numbers are currently declining.
"The pressures upon our biodiversity seem only to increase, and we need to be ever vigilant," she said.
Efforts in the UAE, including those of EAD, have paid off to some extent, she went on. "Our waters are still home to the world's second largest population of dugong, our scientists and rangers have discovered several new species, and we are protecting more terrestrial and marine biodiversity than ever before." This has happened, she said, at a time when the country has also been undergoing rapid development.
The preservation of species does not only require better policies and international agreements. It also requires direct local action, Al Mubarak said, citing the example of the EAD-sponsored Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme in Chad, where over 200 animals have been introduced. The species was formerly classed by IUCN as Extinct in the Wild.
Emphasising what she called "the incredible power of cross-country collaboration to create environmental impact," Al Mubarak went on to say that EAD was "proud of its long-standing partnership with the IUCN."
"Together," she concluded, "we can raise awareness of our vital work in protecting the world’s most vulnerable species. And together, we can engage with everyone as we take forward our mission to protect the life that gives us life. Let us not delay and let us ensure our actions are meaningful and efficient, as extinction is forever."