Nature Tour of the UAE
Wildlife in the UAE
Captive breeding of rare breeds
Whales and dolphins in the UAE
Scorpions and snakes
Ornithology in the UAE
The UAE has become synonomous with skyscrapers and it is easy to forget that away from its cosmopolitan cities lies an environment that is complex and beautiful but ultimately fragile.
The UAE's natural environment is far more diverse than is generally understood. A landscape dominated by desert, ranging from vast, flat sandy expanses to spectacular rolling dunes in the south, supports occasional oases offering welcome shade to Man and wildlife. Extensive salt flats (sabkha) occur in the west and along the Gulf coast where the desert interfaces with the sea, which has been a vital natural resource for millennia. Towards the east rugged mountains rise sharply to an elevation of 2000 metres. Wadis or dry river valleys dissect the mountains opening out onto fertile plains.
These varied environments provide a wide range of habitats for wildlife that has succeeded in adapting to the difficult conditions. Reptiles, of course, love the hot dry environment, but mammals have also learned to survive here and most surprisingly, considering the scarcity of freshwater, even some amphibians. Many species of plants grow in extreme conditions, large numbers of migratory birds use the region as a staging post and vast number of insects thrive. The UAE's seas are also home to a diversity of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals.
This natural environment has evolved over millennia, shaping human development in the region. People learned to live in harmony with nature, adapting to its constraints and surviving under very difficult conditions. Ironically, it was nature that provided Man with the means to reshape the environment through the extraction and exploitation of oil and gas. It is sobering to think that this process commenced less than 60 years ago. The challenges to the natural environment today are immense as the UAE faces the impact of rapid development and the effects of climate change. However, there is a deep awareness that a responsible move towards sustainability is the only way forward, ensuring that by meeting the needs of the present, the aspirations of future generations are not compromised.