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The initiative aims to raise awareness among UAE visitors and residents about the significance of protection of endangered species to ensure biodiversity at local and international levels.
Partners of the campaign include Emirates Wildlife Society in association with World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), Federal Customs Authority, Dubai Customs, Abu Dhabi Airports, Dubai Airports, DP World, Department of Finance – Abu Dhabi, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways.
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, unveiled an interactive stand promoting the campaign at Terminal 1 of Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Abdul Majeed Al Khouri, Acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports, Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director of Dubai Customs, Faisal Issa Lutfi, Executive Director of DC World, Hareb Al Muhairy, Senior Vice President for Corporate and International Affairs at Etihad Aviation Group, Aisha Mohamed Abdullah Al Abdooli Director, Education & Awareness Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Salem Saeed Al Rumaithi, Executive Director of Technical Affairs of Abu Dhabi Customs, attended the ceremony.
The promotional stand allows passengers to enter a virtual wildlife world via the HoloLens technology.
With the help of a cutting-edge holographic computer, visitors can experience simulated interaction with wild animals in their natural environment.
The presentation also includes a virtual brochure with information on wildlife species.
“The ‘Beautiful in the Wild’ campaign is in line with the directives of our visionary leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. We want to make the public aware of the seriousness of tampering with wildlife for unjustified reasons motivated purely by personal interests,” said Al-Zeyoudi.
“Conservation of the ecosystem is one of the most important responsibilities we have as a nation and as human beings. Unfortunately, we still see certain harmful practices, such as illegal trade in endangered animals that cause an imbalance to the ecosystem and adversely impact our environment. The UAE government considers wildlife an important aspect of its heritage and sees the protection of endangered species as its top priority,” he added.
On his part, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DP World, stressed the importance of sustaining plans and strategies related to wildlife, and said: “We support the efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change towards the protection of wildlife, and we strongly believe in the importance of sustaining the environment and partnering with international organisations, especially “United for Wildlife”. We effectively do our bit, being a member in the Organisation’s transport work team, in protecting wildlife and sustain the environment.”
Salem Saeed Al Rumaithi, Executive Director of Technical Affairs of Abu Dhabi Customs, confirmed the commitment of Abu Dhabi Customs on the initiatives that aims to raise awareness of the environment.
He said: “The environmental awareness initiatives are at the top of the customs priorities. Abu Dhabi Customs prevents illicit trafficking of environmentally harmful substances by building the capacities of customs inspectors and staff who are involved in monitoring and licensing of hazardous materials and wastes besides plant and animal species threatened with extinction. Custom staff are familiar with the international environmental agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).”
Al Rumaithi stressed that preserving the environment is a common responsibility which needs national and international efforts to ensure a better life for mankind and the preservation of natural resources for sustainable development for us and for future generations. He noted that customs officers are the “green fence” of any society.
Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director of Dubai Customs, said: “Dubai Customs supports international efforts towards the protection of environment and wildlife and maintaining natural diversity in accordance with CITES regulations, and measures and following the directives of our wise leadership. We always work hard to actively support efforts that help in sustaining the environment and prevent the illegal trade of endangered species.”
Al-Zeyoudi praised the partners of the campaign and urged other key players to join this noble initiative.
He reiterated the necessity of organized international efforts and capacity building in the field of environmental conservation.
Among the most important actions, he highlighted developing mechanisms to share knowledge among countries and organizations, implementing tougher penalties on illegal wildlife trade at national and international levels, and intensifying awareness building.
He said: “The UAE recognises the extent of its role and responsibility in the eradication of illegal wildlife trafficking on a global level. We have taken several significant steps in this direction, including the strengthening of our institutional and legislative frameworks, such as the Federal Law No. 24 of 1999 for the protection and development of the environment and Federal Law No. 11 of 2002 concerning regulating and controlling the international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.”
He added: “The UAE is also keen on complying with the national obligations of relevant international conventions. These include the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and memorandums of understanding resulting from the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).”
Among other related initiatives is the UAE National Biodiversity Strategy that develops and implements programs to increase the conservation status of highly endangered species to 70 percent. In addition, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment collaborates with the competent local authorities such as the Emirates Wildlife Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare, to step-up awareness of endangered species, legislation regulating wildlife trafficking, and the dangers of illegal wildlife trade.
The illegal trade in wildlife is estimated around US$15-20 billion annually, and it is also the most prevalent commercial activities in the world besides trading in drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.
Most of the world’s wildlife has become endangered due to illegal trade and the failure to regulate it and monitor the wildlife species. This scenario ultimately leads to their extinction.
The number of species included in the CITES Convention is around 35,000 species of both animals and plants; they are divided in three appendices according to their protection level to protect them from the negative impact of international trade.
Nearly 100,000 African elephants have been killed between 2010 and 2012 for their ivory, poaching of rhinos has led to the disappearance of more than 90 per cent of its population during the last century.
The numbers of falcons have continued to decline for many reasons including capturing of live birds for falconry practices, human population expansion, pollution, nest disturbance and climate change.
As for the tiger, three subspecies are totally extinct out of the eight original subspecies of tigers: Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger and Javan tiger. Currently, no more than 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.
Sharks are also not spared from overfishing with more than 70 million sharks killed every year for their fins for preparing shark fin soup.
Turtles are also caught illegally for meat, eggs and using their shells in crafting jewelry for tourists.
The UAE joined CITES in 1990 and issued the Federal Law No. 11 of 2002 to implement the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in order to develop strict measures to regulate the illegal wildlife trade by issuing permits for the entry and exit of these species, and to tighten control over transit goods.
Moreover, the Ministry organises training workshops on a regular basis for the national employers in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, such as the workshop on the illegal trade in sharks and the training workshop for customs employees on the implementation of CITES which explains how to identify the endangered species listed on the CITES appendix.