Emirates Group seals agreement with Dubai Municipality to manage Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve
The Emirates Group has renewed its agreement with Dubai Municipality for the management of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR), in its continuous commitment to preserving wildlife and protecting natural habitats.
As custodian of the reserve for over 20 years, the Emirates Group is charged with its full operations and funding of its efforts to nurture the fragile ecosystem of the UAE, in addition to research and education programs.
With Dubai’s rapid pace of development and urbanisation over the past two decades, the DDCR was borne out of the Dubai Government’s commitment to preserving the emirate’s unique desert habitat and biodiversity. The reserve is the UAE’s first national park, spanning an area of 225 square kilometres which is roughly 5% of the total land area of Dubai.
Signing the agreement on behalf of Emirates Group, Ali Mubarak Al Soori, Executive Vice President - Facilities, Projects Management & Group Procurement & Supply Chain said: “At the core of Emirates’ Group strategic goals is our commitment to sustainability and protecting the precious environment that we operate in. Since the establishment of DDCR in 2002, the Emirates Group has supported this important initiative by operating the reserve and managing its vast facilities on behalf of the Government of Dubai. The UAE has declared 2023 the Year of Sustainability, and we are proud to continue playing a role in achieving the nation’s sustainability goals.”
Commenting on the renewed management agreement, Engineer Alya Abdulrahim Alharmoudi, Acting CEO – Environment, Health & Safety Agency at Dubai Municipality, added: “Our collaboration with Emirates Airline to preserve and manage the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (Al Maha) demonstrates the significant role of public-private partnerships in promoting the sustainable development of natural reserves. It also reflects the Municipality’s commitment to efficiently coordinate with all its partners in order to further boost the economy. This agreement plays a vital role in preserving the diversity of environmental and natural reserves, as well as strengthening wildlife conservation, which is essential for the development of tourism and environmental sectors in the Emirate of Dubai as well as the UAE. At Dubai Municipality, we are committed to fostering sustainability in the natural and desert reserves by carrying out research operational plans and studies. This will contribute to conserving their ecological diversities in a sustainable manner and highlight their relevance as significant tourist attractions for wildlife and desert safaris.”
The Emirates Group has invested more than AED 28 million in the reserve since its establishment in 2002, to fund and support the conservation of the natural desert landscape and its indigenous fauna and flora. The protected inland desert habitat is currently home to over 560 different species of plants and trees, birds, mammals, reptiles and arthropods - more than double the original 150 indigenous species which thrived in the area prior to DDCR’s efforts. The reserve’s effective management strategies have helped promote the natural processes that lead to rewilding of the desert habitat and its rehabilitation.
By protecting Dubai’s valuable desert ecosystems, Emirates has also made it possible for the DDCR to provide an authentic desert experience for visitors through carefully managed and monitored tours. Funding from the Emirates Group and limited tour operations at the DDCR also enables the reserve to conduct scientific research, collect data, and develop new technologies necessary for its management, in addition to rolling out education programs designed to enrich the visitor experience.
The sustainable tourism offering allows visitors from around the world to experience spectacular dune drives, desert safaris and traditional Arabian experiences while gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of the desert’s natural habitat, heritage and wildlife, and the importance of conservation. A new Desert Visitor Centre is currently being developed to further enhance the educational experience for guests of the reserve.
The DDCR operates under the supervision of the Dubai Conservation Board (DCB) which is chaired by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Since the inception of the DDCR, the reserve has been immensely successful in growing the population of sand gazelles, Arabian gazelles and the Arabian onyx, from 230 initially to over 1,300 today. A further 171 Arabian Oryx have been relocated to other protected areas in the UAE. Also amongst its other milestone achievements are the re-introduction of 2,800 Houbara, or Macqueen’s Bustard, which roam freely within the safe environment of the reserve. In excess of 31,000 native trees flourish in the vast area, which include the Ghaf tree, native to the desert and known for its ability to survive its extreme climate conditions without irrigation.