How the MBZ Fund is bringing the world's endangered species back from the brink

This week The National published a feature story about the history, mission and impact of the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ Fund).

The article highlighted the successes and importance of microfinancing species conservation projects in the field. A return to the successful practices of the golden age of conservation in the 1960s and 1970s, the MBZ Fund recognizes that when we protect one species, we indirectly protect the many others that make up the ecological community. With an estimated 10,000 species lost to extinction each year, at a rate one thousand times faster than any other period in history, Ms. Al Mubarak says the Fund’s work is more critical now than ever before.

Ms. Al Mubarak explained, “without conservationists in the field, we lose our first line of defence against habitat destruction, deforestation, overhunting, poaching and pollution. When we support a conservationist, chances are good that the conservationist will receive funding from other sources as well. Support from the MBZ Fund is often the spark that lights the fire of conservation.”

Launched in 2009 with an initial endowment of $25 million, grants of up to $25,000 are awarded and have now gone to support more than 1,400 species and subspecies. Over 2,150 projects have been awarded in over 160 countries. These have focused on the preservation of animals, plants and fungi. Awards have led to species rediscovery, reintroduction and protection from extinction. 

Read the full article by Daniel Bardsley “How an Abu Dhabi Fund is bringing world’s endangered species back from the brink” in The National.

Sighting of rare Steppe Whimbrel in Abu Dhabi signals progress for MBZ Fund-supported project

Some good news has risen from Abu Dhabi with the help of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ Conservation Fund), where Razan Al Mubarak serves as the founding managing director. 

As reported by The National, a Steppe Whimbrel, of which only 100 exist today, was photographed on Saadiyat Island by two members of Emirates Bird Records Committee. This sighting is particularly remarkable because it is the first observation of a juvenile Steppe Whimbrel in the field anywhere in the world.

The whimbrel's identity was confirmed by Gary Allport of BirdLife International, the world's foremost expert on Steppe Whimbrels. In 2018, the MBZ Conservation Fund provided a grant to researchers at the University of Cape Town to support research on Steppe Whimbrel migration.

“Sighting a juvenile Steppe Whimbrel here in Abu Dhabi is magnificent news,” Ms. Al Mubarak told The National. “The fund supports conservation of rare species and subspecies around the world but we never expected one of the rarest of all to turn up on our doorstep. It emphasises the importance of our commitment to maintaining protected areas along bird migration routes, including here in Abu Dhabi.” 

The MBZ Conservation Fund operates on the principle that small actions can make a big difference. The organization provides microgrants to people working directly with endangered species in the field, and has supported more than 2,150 projects in over 160 countries, helping to reduce threats to species, many of which are on the brink of extinction.

Read more about the Steppe Whimbrel project at The National

Emirati environmentalist Razan Al Mubarak in running to lead global wildlife agency

An Emirati environmentalist will run for the presidency of a global conservation body working to preserve wildlife and nature. Razan Al Mubarak was chosen as one of the two candidates to head the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Ms Al Mubarak, managing director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and head of Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, will be subject to a vote in June at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress 2020 in Marseille. Her candidacy was announced at a meeting of the IUCN governing council in Gland, Switzerland, this week.

Read the full article by Shuchita Gautam on The National.

VIDEO: Heroes of Sustainability: Meet the individuals who have dedicated their careers to creating a greener future for all

Razan Al Mubarak has been at the forefront of the UAE's successful efforts in the conservation of key species over the last decade.

Like most mothers, she aspires for her daughter to grow up in a world of clean air and water, graced by nature. Unlike most three-year-olds, however, that little girl has a parent whose personal passion and professional tenacity helps render that aspiration realistic.

As managing director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, and Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, Razan Al Mubarak is a potent force in conservation and sustainability, in the UAE and beyond. She cites stunning victories for her organisations, most incredibly, perhaps, the EAD-led re-introduction of Arabian oryx into the UAE desert and its programme to restore scimitar-horned oryx to Chad.

Read the full article by David Dunn on The National.

The world's oceans are a gift of nature that we all have a duty to preserve

It's called the “blue marble” for a reason.

Looking at the Earth from space, the enormous swaths of brilliant turquoise and navy blue dominate the picture, yet we focus so much of our attention on the landmasses floating amid all the water. Our oceans are the largest ecosystem on Earth – responsible for generating approximately half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and holding approximately 97 per cent of the water on our entire planet.

They are vital to the existence of all species including us.

However, our oceans are under threat. Activities such as mass over-fishing, unprecedented plastic pollution, widespread habitat destruction, climate change, and coastline overpopulation are disrupting food chains, damaging vital marine ecosystems irreparably, and causing our oceans to suffer. What's more, unlike sovereign countries, which abide within set rules of jurisdiction, the oceans have no set boundaries.

As such, the threat to our oceans requires a cross-country, collaborated solution. No one nation can address this problem on its own. Only global partnerships can underscore our collective commitment towards the protection and preservation of local marine biodiversity, equitable governance of coastal activities, and sustainable management of our marine resources.

The World Ocean Summit, the sixth of which was held in Abu Dhabi in March 2019, is essential in promoting dialogue with key stakeholders. On behalf of Abu Dhabi Government, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and the Department of Economic Development were proud to be bringing this critical conversation to the Middle East for the very first time.

Despite being a desert nation, the sea has always been vital to Abu Dhabi's history and culture. Located at the geographical epicentre of global trade routes, with one of the most populous coastal communities in the region, Abu Dhabi and the UAE enjoy a rich tradition of trading, seafaring, pearling, shipbuilding, fishing, along with a growing tourism sector.

Preserving our waters is of upmost importance, with the UAE government making crucial investments in blue technology and aquaculture, and implementing major conservation initiatives such as our Marine Water Quality programme, in which we use a network of 22 monitoring stations to collect data to protect public health.

Later in 2019, the UAE will assume presidency of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) until 2022 for the first time since becoming a member in 1999. Organisations such as IORA illustrate the importance of regions coming together to share maritime environmental responsibilities.

The governments of Abu Dhabi and the UAE are proud of its marine conservation work so far, but saving our oceans is a responsibility shared by us all.

By building bridges that connect us, we can come together as one and effect real change. It is in everyone's best interest to preserve our oceans and ensure that the “blue marble” remains blue.

Read the entire op-ed on The National here.