x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

UAE conservationists aim to help save wildlife through ‘green’ obstacle course

The Great Green Race was not just an obstacle course for the participants – it was intended as a way to raise awareness on conservation of turtles and other animals in the UAE.

Participants take a selfie with a 'Panda' during the Great Green Race in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Participants take a selfie with a 'Panda' during the Great Green Race in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // The teams were made to crawl through a manmade cave, solve mathematical puzzles and rush to find hidden clues around Yas Mall.

But the Great Green Race was not just an obstacle course for the participants – it was intended as a way to raise awareness on conservation of turtles and other animals in the UAE.

Teams that participated competed in mental, physical and memory challenges. In each of those, answers or obstacles had themes about marine life.

“Who would have thought that climbing through a cave would teach you about the UAE wildlife?” said Kristina Sharygina.

She was part of the team from Khidmah, a facilities management company, which ended up earning first place in the race.

“There’s definitely a bigger attention to the subject in the region. There is definitely a lot of nature to save, even though we may not think so. It’s great to bring awareness to these bigger environmental issues,” she said.

The Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) depends on science to get their work done, but understands the importance of raising awareness, said Marina Antonopoulou, its marine programme manager.

“The idea was to work with different organisations in different countries, and the idea was basically to fill in the gaps, especially with turtles in the region,” she said. “We work on flagship species because it’s a great way to influence decision making and raising awareness.”

The organisation wants the public to value natural environment and be aware that endangered animals are fragile. Participants were cautioned to not disturb turtle nests, to avoid driving engine-powered boats through protected waters, and to fish sustainably.

The group will soon release a study on green turtles, crucial because of the species’ relationship with ocean vegetation.

“Studying sea turtles brings a lot because of their reliance on sea grass meadows, and in research we are trying to put different pieces of the puzzle together,” said Ms Antonopoulou.

For now, the Khidmah team not only has gained a first-place medal, but more knowledge on marine life.

“Honestly, who would have known that we have one of the biggest populations of dugongs? That’s why this is important,” said team member Cassie Mcvey.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae