A new 12 square kilometre wildlife conservation centre located in the Hajjar mountains, close to the Sharjah Kalba road near the emirate’s east coast, has now been opened for tourists, schools and other visitors. Inaugurated by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre has been established to protect endangered animal species native to the region’s fragile mountain ecosystems.
The new conservation project is led by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) and reinforces Sharjah’s commitment to protect endangered species on the ‘red list’ of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The emirate is a long-time sponsor of wildlife breeding programmes and established the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (BCEAW) near Sharjah city some twenty years ago. The centre provided some 30 of the animal species to Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre.
The new conservation centre is now home to the the Critically Endangered Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr). Once evident throughout the Hajjar mountain range, the big cat is thought to be extinct in the UAE and fewer than 200 wild leopards remain in Arabian peninsula as a whole.
Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre will focus on habitat preservation and restoration, education, rehabilitation, captive breeding and research. Other endangered species in the centre include the Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs) and the Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari), which are both classified by the IUCN as ‘Threatened’; and the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), which is classified as ‘Near-Threatened’.
A wide variety of other Arabian animal species are housed by the outdoor enclosures, such as the caracal (Caracal caracal) or desert lynx, and in the indoor wildlife centre, such as snakes, lizards, hedgehogs, fish species and scorpions. The centre also has a nocturnal wildlife exhibit to showcase the nighttime activities of desert creatures.
Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre is currently open to the public on weekdays, except Mondays, from 9am to 6.30pm. Tickets are AED 25 each for adults, while entry is free to children below 12 years of age. Trained guides are on hand to show visitors the reserve and answer questions about Arabian wildlife. The centre has golf carts to transport visitors around the large enclosures and see animals in their wild habitats.
Source: EPAA, media