x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

What's at stake at Khor Kalba

Khor Kalba is one of the UAE's most important mangrove forests. Many of the animals there cannot be seen anywhere else in the country.

Khor Kalba is one of the UAE's most important mangrove forests. Many of the animals there cannot be seen anywhere else in the country.

In addition to the white-collared kingfisher, which exists nowhere in the world but Kalba and two smaller mangrove forests in Oman, there is the giant mud crab (scylla serrata), the country's largest crab species, and the mangrove whelk, a snail (terebralia palustris).

The new protected area is to be 23 square kilometres in size. It will start from the last tunnel of the Sharjah-Kalba Road all the way to 1.5 kilometres into the sea. It will also stretch from the outskirts of the city to the border with Oman.

Besides the mangrove, the protected area will represent several other habitats – mountains and mountain wadis, alluvial plains, salt marshes and the shallow seas.

"There is nowhere else in the UAE where you have the uninterrupted connection between the mountain and the sea," said Paul Vercammen, operations manager at Sharjah's Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife. "It was the only place in the UAE where preserving all these habitats together was still possible."

The centre is operating under the umbrella of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority in Sharjah, which is overseeing the Kalba project together with the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).

The project will also include the construction of a visitor centre along the acacia-tree alluvial plane bordering the mountains. The centre will have a display of native animals such as the Arabian leopard, Arabian tahr and Gordon's wildcat. Across the street, a heritage centre will show visitors birds of prey such as falcons, owls and vultures.

* Vesela Todorova