Sunday, April 17, 2016

Our Visit to Al Hefaiya Mountain Conservation Center

Newly opened Al Hefaiya Mountain Conservation Center on 6th March 2016 by H.H. Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad AlQuasimi (Ruler of Sharjah) is new jewel added by Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) to sustainable tourism projects in Sharjah.

Day lighting at center, Audio stations with rock sitting area

This beautiful conservation center is located in Kalba at the base of Hajar Mountain range, the drive
to the center from Dubai through wadi Helo was scenic too!
This is first of its kind conservation center for local wildlife some of which are on International union of conservation of nature (ICUN) red list of endangered species. The Al Hefaiya center, these conservation efforts are taken
1. Habitat preservation & restoration
2. Captive breeding & research
3. Rehabilitation of these endangered species.

Striped Hyena
So you get to see the animals in the center living in their natural habitat not a in artificially created environment in captivity like zoos. The best part is the center is built around a small hill and separate portions of slope are assigned to big animals like Arabian leopard, Arabian wolf etc.
Visitors can take ride in electric buggy around the hill and can have a look at animals. Few of the big animals you can see from inside the center.

The structure of center is very innovative and open with use of lot of daylight. The use of audio stations gives you complete experience of being close to the animals. In those designated audio sections, you cn hear the sound of animals and of course watch the same animal from glass. The seating provided are natural huge rocks. I haven't seen a more sustainable conservation center in UAE than this!

Arabian Leopard
The wild life display contains Insects, Birds, Mammals, Amphibians, Reptiles and fish. Around 30 species of animals are kept and bred over 12 sq meters of center.

Arabian Tahr
It was a fascinating experience to see and observe the animals first hand,  once wondered freely in this land and now almost not known like critically endangered Arabian leopard, endangered Arabian Tahr and near threatened striped hyena.
Caracal Cat

There were other local wild life which are under least concerned list of ICUN but were very interesting. Carcal Cat, which is fierce and territorial. While I was taking photos, it was staring at my son and started walking toward on the other side of fence. It's body language and looks in eyes were very uncomfortable for us as parents, my son felt shy and later got little scared too. Later I learned the facts that it can lean higher than 3 meters and kills bird mid-air! quiet thrilling isn't it?

Arabian Wolf
Two Leopards
One of the Arabian wolf, got alert and stood up in his cave with raised ears, when I started taking the photos. Similar alertness Arabian leopard shown. After a while I gave up pointing my zoom lenses at animals feeling little guilty. The stripped hyena looked little uncomfortable as it was walking continuously near the fence area, later it was taking rest in hideout, I could see only head and ears. The Arabian Tahr was busy grazing on his part of mountain. The logo of Hefaiya conservation center is Arabian Tahr. Part of the center is dark, where nocturnal animals are kept. my son was totally entertained by the Gordon's Wild cats kept here, which are near threatened on ICUN red list And finally this time we could observe very closely Branford foxes, we had encountered them on one of camping trip.

There is one of most scenic cafe from where you can see surrounding landscape and beautiful mountain gazelles stationed in that area.

You can see animal feeding kitchen and can learn about wild life through educational information displayed through out the center. Even few old books are displayed, where these wildlife are described and arabic along with sketches and paintings. There are some beautiful art on Arabian wildlife displayed through out the center. This is one place not to be missed if you have a question, what lives in desert?
And remember next time you go dune bashing or wadi bashing or camping around UAE, there might be these animals staying there, so behave responsibly. Some of these wild life are already critically endangered because of habitat loss. so please don't disturb their homes.

Mountain Gazelle and Red wattled Lapwing

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