EAD Completes Terrestrial Aerial Survey in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, UAE – 31 March 2019: The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), the largest environmental regulator in the Middle East, has completed a terrestrial aerial survey of three area clusters in Abu Dhabi covering around 25 per cent of the Emirate: around Baynunah and the Houbara Protected Area, the south-west corner of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (west of the Liwa Crescent), and the area east of the Liwa Crescent on either side of Hameem Road leading up to the city of Abu Dhabi.





The survey was carried out to record the population and distribution of large herbivores in Abu Dhabi, collect data for other wildlife species such as birds and small mammals, and study the distribution of native vegetation in the areas surveyed. Additional information including the distribution of camel farms, grazing and waste disposal areas was also documented.

Among the eight mammalian species recorded, the most notable were the 281 Sand Gazelles and 241 Mountain Gazelles. Other wildlife identified included the Arabian Oryx, Red Fox, and Cape Hare. The survey also recorded a total of 6,839 Arabian Camels, sheep and goats and counted 13 different birds - mainly the Greater Flamingo, Houbara Bustard, Sooty Falcon, and Peregrine Falcon, as well as other common resident winter and summer migrant species.


The survey covered a total area over 14,000 km2 that is equivalent to nearly a quarter of the total land area of Abu Dhabi emirate - covering such a large area within a relatively short period is only possible through aerial survey, which took a total of eight days to complete, and used a helicopter that flew 200 metres above the ground. Using a helicopter instead of a fixed-wing plane grants greater flexibility for landing purposes.

“Aerial surveys are not only efficient, but also accurate in censusing large groups of mammals in an open desert environment such as in the UAE,” said Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD). “These results have provided more exact data and have generated a baseline of information to which future surveys can be compared. The terrestrial aerial survey has also noted activities within the surveyed areas that may have negative impacts on the local wildlife populations, which is key in supporting and guiding future conservation measures to protect and preserve Abu Dhabi’s native biodiversity,” Her Excellency added.


“Understanding the population size and mapping the species distribution are one of the first steps towards the development of an effective management regime for key animal populations,” said Dr. Salim Javed, Acting Director of the Terrestrial Biodiversity Division at EAD. “Additionally, the aerial survey is an important in-house capacity building exercise for EAD’s team of young Emirati scientists,” he added.

EAD has been conducting aerial surveys in the marine environment to count the number of dugongs found in the emirate’s water for some time, but this extensive aerial survey marks the first time this practice has been applied to study large terrestrial areas in Abu Dhabi. This also complements the aerial survey for the Arabian Oryx completed in 2017.