x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE conservation fund gives Dh34m to protect rare species

A UAE conservation fund has spent Dh34 million helping to protect some of the world's most endangered species in more than 120 countries.

A UAE conservation fund has spent Dh34 million helping to protect some of the world's most endangered species in more than 120 countries.

Since it was launched in 2008, the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has given financial aid to almost 1,000 experts, non-governmental and public organisations, and universities that have running on-the-ground research programmes worldwide.

"Our reach is truly global," said Nicolas Heard, head of fund management. "Very few other organisations do this type of targeted-species conservation funding, and for this reason the fund is uniquely suited to provide much-needed support to the world's most endangered species."

The fund supports conservation by giving small targeted grants that reach people working on the ground.

"We often hear about how impressed groups are that someone on the other side of the world cares about their species," Mr Heard said.

Of the 893 projects that have received funding so far, four are based in the UAE. They include research into local coral reefs, and programmes focusing on the endangered Hawksbill turtle, the Socotra cormorant, and a mountain shrub commonly known as qafas.

Among the regional projects supported is an effort by the Environment Society of Oman to study the humpback whale.

In 2010 and 2011 the fund also supported research on the endangered Arabian leopard in Yemen - the only country in the region with a surviving population in the wild.

Grant applications are reviewed by the fund's International Advisory Board, which consists of 10 of the world's most prominent conservationists, specialising in fish, mammals, reptiles, large cats, birds and in species reintroduction, according to Mr Heard.

"These individuals have connections to the world's top environmental groups, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Conservation International and the Species Survival Commission," Mr Heard said.

"We hear over and over again from leading conservationists about how important the fund is."

Mr Heard said the fund was looking to expand contributions from donors and was considering innovative methods, such as crowd-funding and micro-financing.

Only about 14 per cent of all the applications the fund receives are given assistance.

"We do not have the resources to support all the applications, even though many of the projects we do not support are very worthwhile and exciting," Mr Heard said. "Therefore, we are interested in finding mechanisms to support more projects."

vtodorova@thenational.ae