x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Safe haven for mountain animals opens

Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, on the outskirts of Kalba, opened its doors to the public on Sunday. It hopes to raise awareness of life in the Al Hajar Mountains.

A gazelle stares back as Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre in Kalba, Sharjah, was opened to the public on Sunday. Victor Besa for The National
A gazelle stares back as Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre in Kalba, Sharjah, was opened to the public on Sunday. Victor Besa for The National

SHARJAH // A new conservation centre and wildlife reserve aims to preserve the biodiversity of mountain animals.

Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, on the outskirts of Kalba, opened its doors to the public on Sunday. It hopes to raise awareness of life in the Al Hajar Mountains.

Launched by the Ruler of Sharjah, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the centre is spread over 12 square kilometres and lies at the base of the mountain range. It is home to more than 30 animal species that were kept and bred at a centre near Sharjah city.

“This centre is unique because it homes and showcases the wildlife of the area,” said Hana Al Suwaidi, director of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah.

“The animals are inhabitants of Wadi Al Helo, Khor Fakkan and Kalba specifically. “The centre aims to provide a habitable and safe place for the wild animals, and to make sure that they exist for generations to come.”

Some animals – such as snakes, lizards and hedgehogs – are kept in the centre, while others roam the mountains.

The centre is also home to the Arabian leopard, a critically endangered animal, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Other endangered animals at the centre include the Arabian wolf, striped hyena and the Arabian tahr.

Wildlife experts said the centre was a huge step towards protecting the wild animals of the area.

“These animals are not kept in small cages. They run around in their natural habitat, the same environment as they used to live before,” said Paul Vercammen, operations manager of the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Sharjah. “We will see how the wild animals cope in this centre. It will give us a great insight and learning experience about these animals, as well as how the wild animals will adapt in their natural habitat.”

Ms Al Suwaidi said it was important to preserve biodiversity, adding that every animal at the centre had a complete medical record and a diet was tailored for them.

Visitors to the conservation centre will get to ride in golf carts around the reserve to see the animals in the wild.

Dalal Al Yamahi, the centre’s director, said it was a great opportunity for people of all ages to learn about wildlife native to the UAE’s mountains.

“We have staff to answer visitors’ questions and teach children, and trained guides to show you around the reserve,” he said.

The centre will be open from 9am to 6.30pm on weekdays, except Mondays. Tickets are priced at Dh25 for adults and entry is free to children below 12.

tzriqat@thenational.ae