ABU DHABI // For most people Facebook is a way of keeping in touch with friends and family. But for the team behind the campaign to have Bu Tinah Island elected as a global natural wonder, the social networking site is proving an effective promotional tool. Launched last year, the Official Group of the Vote Bu Tinah! Campaign, as it is called on Facebook, has attracted more than 1,000 members from the UAE and abroad.
The island, off Abu Dhabi, is competing with 27 other picturesque locations in the New7Wonders of Nature poll. "Social media was a no-brainer," said Laila al Hassan, a spokeswoman for the campaign, which is also using the Twitter network, a fleet of public transport buses in the capital and more traditional media for the campaign. One of the Facebook group's members is Zeinab Ataya, 25, a resident of Abu Dhabi, who visited Bu Tinah in April.
"I got to see the dugongs and also dolphins, ospreys, flamingos and turtles," said Ms Ataya, an events co-ordinator. Despite not being a "nature person", she enjoyed the experience so much it sparked a discussion on the Facebook page. Feedback such as Ms Ataya's is important for efforts to promote the island. Bu Tinah is not nearly as well known as competitors, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Also, because it is a key area in the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, it is not open to the public.
Ms Ataya was one of seven people who won a trip to Bu Tinah during the official launch of the promotion campaign in Abu Dhabi in March. Visits are usually reserved only for scientists, so as not to disturb inhabitants such as dugongs, large marine mammals of which Abu Dhabi has the second-largest population in the world. Ms Ataya's post has attracted a lot of attention from her friends and family, as well as other members of the site. "No one really knows these things - mangroves, turtles and birds - all exist in one spot in Abu Dhabi," she said.