72b91d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2008-Q2Animal reserve welcomes eco-conscious62b91d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Animal reserve welcomes eco-consciousTourists will soon arrive on Sir Bani Yas Island, the private wildlife park created by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan.Tourists will soon arrive on Sir Bani Yas Island, the private wildlife park created by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan.<p>In a just a few months, the first tourists will arrive on Sir Bani Yas Island, the private wildlife park created by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan in the year he became president.
The 87 square kilometre island, located 170km west of Abu Dhabi, should see visitors come ashore to a new resort later this year.
In addition to preparations for the coming human influx, the island's animal population has to undergo some dramatic changes. Predators, including a golden jackal and a striped hyena, were introduced as part of an attempt to deal with a wildlife population explosion that threatened to overwhelm the fragile 3,240-hectare habitat. The new predators were born at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah.</p>
<p>The changes are part of a master plan commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Development and Investment Company to attract visitors to the island with a mix of resorts, eco-lodges and campsites, as well as a lagoon with dolphins. The main nature reserve will not be finished until January, but the first phase of the resort could be ready by the end of the summer.
The first stage will feature a 64-room hotel, a spa and a campsite, which has been described as "outdoors simplicity meets luxurious hospitality". Visitors will be shuttled to the island by seaplane or ferry. And from next year, boats will leave from the end of a two-kilometre long jetty at Marsa Jabel Dhanna, the future home of a second hotel.</p>
<p>Sheikh Zayed created Sir Bani Yas as a nature paradise for rare species, which included antelope and gazelles. He visited the island often, travelling with important visitors or members of the royal family. Since Sheikh Zayed's death in 2004, the island's animal population has multiplied rapidly and today numbers about 17,000 creatures. This growth was helped along by the vegetation, kept lush by the five million gallons of water pumped from the mainland daily.</p>
<p>While two-thirds of the island will remain a nature reserve, the development plans have called for a substantial reduction in animals to about 4,000.
Priority will be given to native species, such as the Arabian oryx and sand gazelle. At 400 strong, the herd of oryx on the island is the largest in the world, despite being extinct in the wild in Abu Dhabi until recently.
Non-indigenous animals will be moved to the new Arabian Wildlife Park or, where possible, exported to their native countries. They include the blackbuck antelope, which is native to India, Pakistan and Nepal; the urial, a sheep with reddish-brown fur and large horns found in Iran, Kazakhstan and South West Pakistan, and Barbary sheep from North Africa. There are also 30 reticulated giraffe, which are native to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.</p>
<p>Dr Jeremy Anderson, a South African conservation expert who is behind the project, acknowledged that some animals might have to be culled.
"Hopefully, as many as possible that are from elsewhere will be used for reintroduction in other parts of the world," he said. "We will be able to annually provide animals for places elsewhere."
Dr Anderson said a number of other species would also be introduced to the island to create a more diverse population. The first batch of endangered Arabian tahr and threatened Nubian ibex will be delivered later this year.</p>
<p>"In the long run, we also plan to introduce vultures," he said.
Sir Bani Yas is a joint development between the Government and the private sector. It is expected to cost Dh11.5 billion (US$3bn) and could attract 250,000 visitors when the first phase is completed in 2010.
The tourism authority expects the project to create about 6,500 jobs and to generate an annual income of Dh1.2bn.
10,22,41,55NNNATIONAL200804270000002008042700000020110607191838100ARhttp://adedit.ad.atl.publicus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080427/NATIONAL/713524890AD200810713524890200804271000000004241287cf1af931b49210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____62b91d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____88ef0a11c5548210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRD3b095aa31eb49210VgnVCM100000e56411ac____62b91d28cda49210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____d8da571093a49210VgnVCM100000e56411acRCRDImageArticle Asset captionArticle Asset option