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From Extinction to the Wild – A conservation success story at Sir Bani Yas Island

Adventure, Discovery, Sustainability

Sir Bani Yas Island was originally established as a Royal Nature Reserve in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Aiming to ensure the survival of Arabia’s endangered species, he developed a conservation programme that focused on the breeding and relocation of these endangered species. Successfully putting late Sheikh Zayed’s vision into practice until today, Sir Bani Yas Island is now home to over 11,000 animals from 30 different species, many of which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies as critically endangered or vulnerable to the wild, including sand gazelles, blackbuck antelope, urial sheep, barbary sheep and the Arabian oryx. Sir Bani Yas Island plays a significant role in protecting these animals for future generations.

The iconic animal species in the park is the critically endangered Arabian oryx. This unique indigenous animal has been classified as extinct in the wild since the 1960s. Today, Sir Bani Yas Island is home to one of the largest Arabian oryx herds in the world, numbering over 700. The conservation team work with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi to breed and then transfer these oryx to repopulate the wild.

The Arabian Wildlife Park was developed in four phases starting with relocating animals from the mainland, then separating the indigenous and non-indigenous wildlife with the creation of the park. Phase three was the introduction of predators into the wild such as Cheetahs and phase four was the ongoing release of animals from the Arabian Wildlife Park back into the mainland and reintroducing new Arabian species to the park. The conservation team’s achievements also include rewilding cheetahs to live and roam without human interaction. Cheetahs are native to the Arabian Peninsula but have been extinct in the wild in the UAE since the 1960s. Four of the species were reintroduced into the Arabian Wildlife Park in 2009 as part of the conservation programme. Now the island is home to five new cheetahs who are going through the rewilding process before being released into the wild.

Apart from the animals, many species of wild birds can be found on the island that are indigenous to the region, such as eagles, ospreys and falcons. Various non-indigenous species have also settled during migration and made the island their permanent home, including flamingos, cormorants, wildfowl, pintails, shovelers, black-winged stilts, teals, crab plovers, avocets and grey herons. The waters around the island are home to vibrant marine life, untouched coastal habitats that serve as breeding grounds for migratory birds and turtles. They will remain undisturbed to ensure the preservation of marine and birdlife. There is an eight kilometre no-fishing zone around the island to protect marine life and its establishment has created an important habitat and breeding zones for turtles, dolphins and dugongs. Navigation routes have been designed to mitigate the impact of maritime traffic on the dugongs and sea turtles feeding on seagrass beds.

The Arabian Wildlife Park was developed to provide an authentic environment for Arabian animals to freely roam while the island remains an exceptional experience for visitors and now also home to three Anantara resorts.

Indulge in Anantara luxury at the royal guesthouse of His Highness late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan – Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, or in rustic lodges in the heart of the Arabian Wildlife Park at Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort or private beach villas at Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort.

Visit our website to book your next escape to Sir Bani Yas Island, the pinnacle of UAE conservation.

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