As the UAE celebrates the ‘Year of Zayed’, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, it is appropriate that the Emirates Natural History Group is at the same time marking its 40th anniversary, the Minister of Tolerance, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, said last night.
Addressing a dinner organised by the Group’s Abu Dhabi chapter last night, Sheikh Nahyan said: "It is entirely fitting that your group’s celebration of its fortieth anniversary is occurring in the Year of Zayed because our nation’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is, of course, our country’s most prominent naturalist. He had a love of nature. "
Describing the Group’s members, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Fujairah, as "a small but illustrious band of people consumed by wonder, burning with curiosity, oblivious to hardship, and enchanted by nature," he went on to draw parallels with the approach of Sheikh Zayed not only to the environment but to wider fields.
"Your patient observation of flora and fauna, your desire to understand what you see, and your determination to invite discussion of your findings reminds me of the UAE’s most prominent naturalist," Sheikh Nahyan said. "He applied your approach to diplomacy. He said that relations among heads of state should be marked by tolerance and dialogue."
He went on to cite Sheikh Zayed’s comments about the environment and nature.
"We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognised the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generation," he quoted Sheikh Zayed as saying.
Sheikh Zayed had stressed, he noted, that: "With God's will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage."
Sheikh Nahyan, who has been the Patron of the ENHG for over thirty years, went on to recall that when the UAE was formed, Sheikh Zayed had quickly designated the island of Sir Bani Yas as a nature reserve and had initiated his ‘Greening the Desert’ programme. "The work of the Emirates Natural History Group," he added, "contributed to Sheikh Zayed’s decision in 1993 to form a Federal Environmental Agency." In subsequent years, under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he continued, "The country’s concern for the environment has steadily intensified."
Those active in the ENHG, he told those at the dinner, "lead the way in educating us all about our more-than-human world. I know that you will continue to venture into the open air determined to observe even the tiniest organisms honestly and accurately. You will find connections. You will help us all to understand and respect our more-than-human world. You will excite in us a love of nature. I admire your passion and am honoured to be your Patron."
During the dinner, Sheikh Nahyan presented the Group’s two annual awards.
The first, the Sheikh Mubarak bin Mohammed Award for natural history, created by Sheikh Nahyan, was presented to Dr. Peter Magee, the head of archaeology for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, for his twenty-five years of original research and publication on the archaeology of the UAE.
The second, the Bish Brown Award, named after the ENHG’s founder, was presented to the husband-and-wife team of Keith and May Yoke Taylor, in recognition of their many years of service to the Group’s outreach activities, promoting knowledge of the UAE’s environment and heritage.
The Emirates Natural History Group, established in 1977, seeks to encourage and assist in the study and appreciation of the natural history and archaeology of the United Arab Emirates.