Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Abu Dhabi world wonder needs you

Bu Tinah Island (photo via
What are the seven things you can remember?

That’s what we will find out on November 11 after more than 100 million votes would have been cast to select what represents global heritage throughout history.

The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World were all man-made monuments, selected by Philon of Byzantium in 200 BC. Today, only the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt remain. His selection of wonders was essentially a travel guide for fellow Athenians, and the stunning sites were all located around the Mediterranean basin, the then-known world.

Today, rather than being chosen by one person, the New 7 Wonders of Nature will be picked by millions of people worldwide.

Bu Tinah Island, a UAE natural treasure, is the only finalist from the Arabian Gulf in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition.

Building the Bu Tinah Experience dome on Abu Dhabi Corniche
The Bu Tinah dome at night (photo by Khaled Akbik)
If you have visited Abu Dhabi recently, you might be wondering what the giant white dome on the Corniche is. You’re in for a wonderful surprise.

It’s a project by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) to bring Bu Tinah Island to the general public. It includes a turtle rehabilitation center and a mangrove nursery.

Off the western coast of the UAE capital, Bu Tinah is restricted to visitors, except for scientific research. It is a protected marine area where nature is respected and allowed to flourish. Bu Tinah is an important ecosystem that has thrived through protection of the island’s unique environment, and the conservation of its habitats and inhabitants.

Bu Tinah is part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve (MMBR), a UNESCO-recognized site and the region’s first and largest Marine Biosphere Reserve (MBR). Such sites are vital to promote more harmonious partnerships between natural and human activities. They are key to the future of sustainable development.

In 2007, the MMBR became the first site in the UAE to be recognized as a biosphere reserve. It covers an area of some 4,255 square kilometers and includes Marawah, Jenanah, Salahah, Al Buzm al Gharbi and Bu Tinah islands.

The MMBR is unique in that its inhabitants thrive under some of the highest temperatures and harshest living conditions in the world. Lessons on how to withstand global warming and climate change learned from this biosphere are highly relevant to the region and the world.

The UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program is a collaborative effort of scientific communities worldwide to study the relationship between humans and the environment and to provide solutions for global scientific, environmental, societal and developmental issues. Since being established in the 1970s, there are currently 580 biosphere reserves in 114 countries. These sites are essential to achieving sustainable development in future.

Bu Tinah Island Dugongs (
Bu Tinah Island has the highest density of Dugongs per square meter in the world. The Dugong, the island’s shyest character, is a gentile and graceful marine mammal also known as the Sea Cow.

One of Bu Tinah's Hawksbill turtles (
Green and Hawksbill turtles thrive on the island with three species of seagrass and over 21 species of marine algae. The endangered Hawksbill Turtle returns there every year to nest. Over 600 have been born on Bu Tinah this year alone, .

Model of the Socotra Cormorant in the dome
Several bird species spend their winters on the island. Osprey, the Western-reef Heron, and the Bridled and White-cheeked Tern stopover and breed there too. It is also where the Socotra Cormorant has found its home, with approximately 20,000 to 25,000 birds making it their annual retreat. There is a long stretch of mangroves along the backwaters that reach an average height of five meters.

The New 7 Wonders of Nature finalists (
Bu Tinah has been shortlisted as a finalist from almost 500 sites of outstanding natural beauty from around the world in the environmental prize of prizes, known as the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The global campaign began in 2007 to vote for a new list of seven natural wonders. From 440 nominations, from over 220 countries, based on beauty of the nominated site, ecological substance, historical legacy and geographical location, the list was narrowed down to 77. It is now down to 28 finalists.

The competition closes on 11/11/11, so there is less than a month for a final push to support conservation and protect the UAE’s natural heritage by voting for Bu Tinah.

Because of the importance of conserving Bu Tinah, activities on and around the island are limited. That’s where the Bu Tinah Experience comes in – and the dome on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

Model of a dolphin inside the Bu Thinah Experience dome
A turtle in the dome's lagoon (photo by Khaled Akbik)
The island has been recreated for people to catch sight of what life on Bu Tinah is like. This initiative by EAD is to raise awareness on the UAE’s biodiversity. Inside the dome there is a lagoon with live endangered turtles from UAE waters and a mangrove nursery. The turtles are part of a rehabilitation initiative that rescues injured animals before releasing them back in the areas they were found.

In the UAE, you can support Bu Tinah by sending an SMS with the word “BuTinah” to 3888 as many times as you like. Supporters around the world can also vote online on

EAD was established in 1996 to preserve Abu Dhabi’s natural heritage, protect the future, and raise awareness of environmental issues. It is Abu Dhabi’s environmental regulator and advises the government on environmental policy. It creates sustainable communities, and protects and conserves wildlife and natural resources.

EAD regularly monitors the turtles’ nesting and foraging habitats – providing vital information on clutch size, incubation period, hatching success and nesting patterns. It also investigates the species’ main causes of mortality in the region which have been identified as drowning in abandoned or illegal fishing nets (48%) followed by boat strikes (25%).

A robotic egg-laying turtle in the dome
Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, two predominantly occur in Abu Dhabi’s waters: the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered Green turtle (Cheloniamydas mydas). Worldwide, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the Hawksbill turtle as “critically endangered.” In Abu Dhabi, turtles nest on at least 17 offshore islands from mid-March to mid-June.

The dome has an eco-cinema where visitors can view episodes of The Environment Show with Ask Ali series. The first episode was dedicated to the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle. A new episode of the series will be screened every week until November 13.

Ali Al Saloom introduces The Environment Show with Ask Ali
Each episode of the series will cover critical environmental issues of relevance to the Emirates. The series is part of a long-term collaboration project between EAD and Ali Al Saloom (better known as Ask Ali), EAD’s Environmental Awareness Ambassador and UAE cultural ambassador and columnist.

The dome is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. until November 13. Entrance is free.

If you haven’t voted yet, have a look at the video below!

 Good luck to the UAE and to Bu Tinah.

Related posts:
Turtles tutorial at Orange House – September 16, 2011