The conversion of what was once just a waste dump into the recently-opened Dubai Safari, in the Al Warqa district of Dubai, has led to a major increase in the numbers and species of birds that use the area, according to a study by Dr. Mohammed Ali Reza Khan, the Principal Wildlife Specialist at the site.
"At a time when much of the natural habitat in the area of greater Dubai is under pressure, this study provides evidence of the ability of bird species to make use of areas formerly of little ecological value which are developed with a view to creating new habitats," Dr. Khan says.
The site was first selected by the Dubai Municipality as an area for the disposal of solid waste in the late 1970s. When waste disposal ceased in the early 1990s, the dump covered an area of around four sq. kilometres, rising to a height of around 30 metres above the surrounding land surface. The dump then remained undisturbed until May 2012, when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, gave instructions that the dump and adjacent areas should be handed over to the Project Department of the Dubai Municipality for the creation of the Dubai Safari project.
Recognising the importance of monitoring the changes to the environment that would come about as a result of the creation of the Dubai Safari, Dr. Khan promptly began regular surveys of wildlife, in particular birds, he reports in the latest issue of the journal Tribulus, issued by the Emirates Natural History Group,.
For the first year, with little sign of wildlife, he made monthly visits, following up between May 2013 to June 2016, as rehabilitation of the site and construction of the first phase of the Dubai Safari got under way, with visits by vehicle four times a week. From March 2015, he also began to make regular visits on foot, carrying out at least two surveys a week up till last summer.
Up to 2013, just twelve species of birds had been recorded at the Safari site, excluding its largely natural eastern side. All of these species are commonly found in and near centres of human activity. Of these, Green Bee-eater, Collared Dove, Laughing Dove, Bank Myna and House Sparrow bred at the site.
Construction activity began in May 2014, with bodies of water being created. Planting of ground cover began in March 2015, with plantations being created in 2016. By June 2017, most of the construction and landscaping, including plantations, had been completed. Between 2015 and the middle of last year, Dr. Khan reported in his study, the number of species recorded rose to 58. These included both species that are resident in the UAE and those that visit during the winter. A number of new breeding species have also made use of the site, benefiting from the presence of vegetation and water.
In his study, Dr. Khan notes that of the species recorded at the Dubai Safari site, 33 are primarily terrestrial species, the remainder being wetland or water-loving species, some being passage migrants and others over-wintering. He plans to continue his research to document the way in which the new habitat continues to attract more species of wildlife.