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  • It's home to one of the biggest contemporary

  • nature conservation efforts.

  • Sir Bani Yas — a desert island packed with wildlife.

  • Animals from multiple continents roam freely on the island.

  • Sir Bani Yas is part of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.

  • The reserve was established by Shaikh Zayed Al Nayhan,

  • who created a kind of Noah's Ark for one of the

  • rarest species at the time, the Arabian oryx.

  • ThisIsland of the White AntelopebecameAbu Dhabi's Natural Oasis”.

  • The emirates have seen development at break-neck speed.

  • A dhow against the modern backdrop of Abu Dhabi symbolizes

  • the rapid growth from fishing settlement to booming metropolis.

  • The UAE is a record breaker when it comes to

  • the consumption of energy, resources and water.

  • So even in my own lifetime it got difficult to keep up with the

  • with the changes that we're seeing.

  • You know I can point at something unique and beautiful and

  • enormous and tell you that this was desert five years ago.

  • So I can - I can't even imagine what it's like for my father or

  • his father before him to see where we were and what we've become.

  • It began in the oases of Rub al-Khali,

  • the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world.

  • It brought the Arab Bedouin Federation of the Bani Yas to

  • the glass palaces of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

  • The name Sir Bani Yasthe island of the Bani Yas

  • harks back to the political union from which the

  • ruling families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai came.

  • The first recorded mention of the

  • Liwa Oasis dates to the 17th century.

  • It's located in the part of the Rub al-Khali that borders

  • Saudi Arabia and now belongs to the UAE.

  • In the desert, water is the most precious commodity.

  • Only in places where there is enough water can

  • settlements develop and people survive.

  • But locating it isn't easy.

  • Luckily, people in the region had some outside help?

  • The Arabian oryx, which is, is the white one, is the best one

  • best animal to find the water source in the desert,

  • so in the past people that would follow the tracks of oryx,

  • went on the wild they find the water source so maybe that could be

  • a reason why they choose Arabian oryx

  • as a national animal of the UAE.

  • It's no coincidence that the name Abu

  • Dhabi meansfather of the gazelle”.

  • During a hunting trip in the 18th century,

  • a gazelle led the Liwa Oasis Bedouins to a freshwater spring.

  • There they established a fishing village.

  • According to legend, it was the dawn of a new era.

  • In the mid-19th century, the coastal settlement experienced

  • its first boom through the pearl fishery.

  • It exists somewhere between tradition and modernity.

  • The visible contradictions are proof of the

  • rapid changes the emirate has gone through.

  • Abu Dhabi has long outgrown its geographic area.

  • Its skyscrapers and other magnificent

  • buildings require a lot of space,

  • which is reclaimed from the sea.

  • The Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque,

  • the city center around the Etihad Towers,

  • and the Qasr al Watan Presidential palace,

  • are statements in the global contest for influence and prestige.

  • Even the locals gaze on with astonishment.

  • The main island on which Abu Dhabi is located has more than doubled

  • in size over the past 50 years, thanks to land reclamation concepts.

  • For a long time, the race into the future knew no bounds

  • until climate change began to demand otherwise.

  • There are many way to express luxury.

  • But here, one thing takes center-stage is water.

  • The desert's most precious commodity has become a symbol of excess.

  • One of Shaikh Zayed's

  • many achievements is free access to water,

  • which according to the Koran, every Muslim is entitled to.

  • But climate change is making the desert ever harsher.

  • So it makes sense to limit private water use in favor of irrigation.

  • When Sheik Zayed was ascended to be ruler of

  • Abu Dhabi he was having big vision in his mind,

  • which he started at from Al Ain,

  • which is the greening of the desert and then he moved it here in 1971,

  • which means he started planting trees on the island

  • and preparing a nice environment for the animals.

  • Many species of animals from different regions of

  • the world have found a home here.

  • For one particular species from the Arabian Peninsula,

  • the wildlife refuge was a matter of life and death.

  • At the time when Sir Bani Yas was established,

  • the Arabian oryx was one of the very endangered species,

  • Sheikh Zayed basically decided to allocate this island,

  • which is a huge island, for protection of this species.

  • Almost 40 years later from the establishment of this island,

  • today the Arabian oryx is no longer an endangered species.

  • For the Arabian oryx, Sir Bani Yas became a safe haven,

  • paving the way for an amazing comeback.

  • The desert is considered to be Allah's garden,

  • from which he removed everything that was superfluous.

  • But wild animals were by no means a part of that.

  • Sir Ban Yas island is 87 square kilometers and half of

  • all land is nature resort, animals free roaming inside.

  • There are mountains, grass patches areas

  • on the plantations, on the trees, yeah.

  • The island reserve also provides protection for eland antelopes?

  • Barbary sheep from North Africa?

  • and blackbuck antelopes during mating season.

  • Unlike elsewhere, the animals here don't face poaching

  • or other harmful human influences.

  • That's reflected in their relaxed demeanor.

  • We do have different species in the island, mostly from like Africa,

  • middle east asian or likely from India,

  • most of the animals are gifted or

  • donated to the Sheikh Zayed, because he used to save his own species

  • at the beginning and neighbor countries realize

  • why don't we ask him to take our species.

  • It's no secret that striped hyenas and

  • cheetahs are severely threatened.

  • But it's less well-known that giraffes are also endangered.

  • In some countries, even gazelles have died out.

  • The biggest challenge is the harsh climate.

  • High temperatures and then humidity.

  • Apart from these natural challenges we have the challenges of

  • different species which are not from this region.

  • Providing them with the ecological requirements that

  • they need to survive here on the island.

  • The abilities of wild animals to learn and adapt can be studied here.

  • It's not only the herbivores that wait for their daily feeding?

  • ?so do the predators.

  • Once in the day the truck going to pass, they drop of the food in

  • the feeding stations, the animals they do know

  • what time or when they get their food.

  • So, they do more on pretty much the mornings

  • quite active in the feeding sessions.

  • And water, we don't want to make a big pond,

  • then animals get to lay on that water,

  • then they need water all the time kind of.

  • We want animals to roam around on the island,

  • to look for the water from the grass patches area.

  • African cheetahs have been known to incorporate safari vehicles and

  • even airplanes into their hunting strategies.

  • So knowing daily feeding times is child's play.

  • Still, not every hunt ends in success.

  • All around the world, most of the conservation plans on conservation

  • reintroduction fail because the animals were directly taken from an

  • institution that is extensively taking care of the animals

  • and then immediately releasing them to the wild.

  • So, they don't survive there because they don't have the

  • the skills to survive in the wild.

  • Sir Bani Yas is the result of extensive landscape

  • planning based on scientific research.

  • The same can be said for urban planning in Abu Dhabi.

  • The architecture reflects the idea of harmoniously combining the past,

  • present and futurefollowing the notion ofEtihad,”

  • the Arabic word for community.

  • And the animal depicted on the UAE's emblem reflects that too.

  • Falcons are a big part of Emirati heritage and tradition.

  • And that can be seen on our crests.

  • And having a falcon hospital just shows you how serious we are about

  • protecting this heritage that goes hand in hand with the

  • nature that this heritage is tied to as well.

  • The head doctor at this unique animal clinic

  • is a German veterinarian.

  • She was awarded the highest civilian

  • distinction by the Crown Prince himself.

  • With over 11,500 falcons per year,

  • we're the largest falcon hospital in the world.

  • Falcons have a different significance here.

  • In Europe, falconry was the sport of kings in the Middle Ages.

  • It was for the aristocracy.

  • Here, falconry has a completely different background.

  • Just 40, 50, or 60 years ago, most Emiratis

  • were Bedouins living in the desert.

  • They used falcons to hunt for meat for their families.

  • They couldn't have survived without falcons.

  • The birds were never just a piece of sporting equipment.

  • They were integrated into the family.

  • Falcons had the status of a family

  • member, and that's still the case today.

  • We're not just caring for birds here.

  • We're caring for the children of the Bedouins.

  • Because that's how falcons are still seen today.

  • The UAE was the first Arab state to make private ownership

  • and trade in wild animals punishable by law.

  • The move was all the more significant because big cats,

  • in particular, were considered status symbols.

  • Genuine efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade,

  • as well as an international commitment to species conservation,

  • are showing clear signs of success.

  • We have Scimitar Horned Oryx, which was declared as extinct

  • in the wild in 2000 and we have around

  • more than a thousand individuals

  • herd of Scimitar Horn Oryx on the island

  • we see that our success is very good for captive breeding

  • and preparing a population for future reintroductions.

  • The environment agency of Abu Dhabi they took up a project of

  • reintroducing them in wilding Chad by contributing a breeding herd.

  • The project is basically going very

  • successful and they have been able to

  • revert the status from extinct to critically endangered.

  • So, it's a big success story.

  • The repopulation in Chad shows that Sir Bani Yas is much more than

  • a safari park where peacocks walk side-by-side with cheetahs.

  • The scimitar oryxnot to be confused with the Arabian oryx

  • was once widespread throughout the Sahara.

  • It was later eradicated from its last refuge, in Chad.

  • There still seems to be little concern among people that up to

  • a million species are on the brink of extinction.

  • They include the East African or Beisa oryx,

  • one of four species of oryx on Sir Bani Yas.

  • Here on the island we have multiple species and we have species that

  • can interbreed and we don't want hybrid so we have separated them

  • in different zones and then we have some

  • enclosures that have different sexes,

  • because we need to control the population,

  • to maintain quality rather than going for the quantity.

  • Sir Bani Yas is now home to some 16,000 wild animals.

  • The reserve's management cooperates closely with

  • international conservation organizations.

  • That's one of the reasons why the successes and setbacks experienced

  • here provide valuable information for

  • wildlife parks around the world.

  • That also applies to the elaborate system of hoses used for irrigation.

  • We aim to have a genetically viable population that is not the victim of

  • gene deficiency and we are

  • processing this strategy through blood line

  • exchange and then we are doing some rewilding projects where we start

  • modifying the behavior of animals.

  • The white antelopes don't actually need any

  • fencing to protect them from the cheetahs.

  • The purpose of the fences is to separate an

  • older pair of brothers from their own offspring.

  • Otherwise there would be fights over territory and prey.

  • The Oryx have no reason to fear the cheetahs.

  • Nor does the ranger, who accompanies them on their daily hunt for food.

  • It's his job to observe whether they catch prey and get enough to eat.

  • The older they get, the more difficult hunting becomes.

  • Peacocks and cheetahs once shared the same habitat

  • until cheetahs became victims of human activity in Asia.

  • Not only were they hunted

  • excessively for their beautiful coats;

  • they were also captured and trained to hunt.

  • The pair of brothers on Sir Bani Yas came from a zoo.

  • They had no experience with either peacocks or giraffes.

  • After some training from humans, they learned to hunt.

  • They've now been self-sufficient for nearly a decade.

  • Our three cheetahs at the present, they can't really make

  • control the number of animals but it can make a difference,

  • so cheetahs can keep our animals in natural fear.

  • Cheetahs -- and probably striped hyenas as well

  • are extinct on the Arabian Peninsula.

  • Giraffes and Beisa oryx face a similar fate in

  • some of their native African habitats.