ABU DHABI // When Dr Margit Muller moved to Abu Dhabi from Germany 10 years ago and began nursing ailing falcons back to health, she never dreamt of being recognised publicly for her caring work.
But as the director of the Falcon Hospital in Sweihan, she demonstrated enough passion and love for birds to win the highest medal of recognition any civilian in Abu Dhabi can receive.
"My aim was to be able to provide the best possible care for falcons and birds of prey in Abu Dhabi," said Dr Muller, a veterinarian who won the honour at the Abu Dhabi Awards in 2008.
Dr Muller attended a press conference announcing the sixth Abu Dhabi Awards at the Executive Affairs Authority in the capital. Nominations for this year's awards will be accepted starting on Sunday.
The awards, which are now biennial, recognise people and organisations who have contributed to Abu Dhabi's growth by performing good deeds towards the emirate, whether in the UAE or abroad. Nominations can be made by anyone.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, hands out the awards.
The 2011 awards will have a special focus on Al Ain and Al Gharbia, as well as online nominations.
In 2009, almost 88 per cent of nominations came from Abu Dhabi city, while only 12 per cent were from Al Ain.
Organisers said they wanted to give other communities a chance to contribute more good deeds toward the emirate.
Individuals will have four weeks from this Sunday to nominate a person or organisation of their choice.
A screening period will take place from September 24 until December, when the awards ceremony at the Emirates Palace hotel will take place. The date of the ceremony has yet to be determined.
In 2009, individuals accounted for 16,000 of the 31,000 nominations received. Organisers are aiming to award between five and 15 people this year.
"We look for unique quality nominations," said an organiser who did not wish to be named. "We want more people to nominate and this is open to everyone - even non-residents of Abu Dhabi."
Mobile vans and a bus will travel around the emirate collecting nominations. Additionally, 10 manned booths will be set up in malls. Oral nominations and Ipad reminders will also be introduced this year, as well as 90 drop boxes, including five digital ones, across the emirate. The online nomination button will be activated on Sunday.
"The nominations are also open to Abu Dhabi residents who have done good deeds abroad in the name of the emirate," the organiser said. "There are no parameters of what goodness is."
Goodness is no stranger to Dr Muller. The Falcon Hospital, inaugurated in 1999, was the first public falcon hospital in the Emirates, and has treated more than 42,000 patients.
With birds nursed back to health coming from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, it is now the largest falcon hospital in the world.
"I opened the hospital to all birds because I wanted the community to be able to visit it from Abu Dhabi and abroad," said Dr Muller. "What was important for me was to teach them about falcons, how to preserve them and why they are such an important bird to the UAE."
She said it was crucial to provide visitors with a hands-on experience about the meaning of falcons - the national bird of the UAE - to the country and Abu Dhabi specifically.
Dr Muller, who published A Practical Handbook of Falcon Husbandry and Medicine, started her good deeds by discovering a disease in falcons called Brotzul, now registered with the World Health Organisation. It caused parasites in the intestines of falcons and was potentially fatal. She also managed to find the cure.
"I identified the medicine that eliminated the disease eventually," she said. "And I have now found a new disease that's become internationally recognised."
The awards' organisers, the Executive Affairs Authority, said the hospital "put Abu Dhabi on the radar". They also said that Dr Muller prevented the spread of avian flu in the UAE.
"Whatever I can do for Abu Dhabi can never be good enough," she said, "and I hope I can serve as a role model for others."
* For more information about the Abu Dhabi Awards, residents can call 800-3331 or visit the five multimedia hubs set up in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi Mall and Khalidiyah Mall.