According to a report published by Pew Environment Group (2010), the planet is struggling from the overuse of its natural resources. Studies have shown that the planet has lost over 30% of its natural resources in the last two decades. The Pew Environment Group Report further indicates that the Middle East, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are leading in consumption of carbon intensive goods and, thus, also leading in the level of emissions of carbon gas in the atmosphere. These gases have contributed immensely to the climatic changes witnessed not only in the Middle East, but also across the world. Climatic changes are known to disrupt ecological systems, altering the usual way of life of animals and plants found in this environment. Consequently, animals are forced to either adapt to their new climatic conditions or risk of becoming extinct.
Similarly, UAE as a region has undergone rapid urbanization in the recent past and, thus, there is a strain on the land where wildlife and human beings are competing for space for settlement. Of course, human beings are poised to win this competition, but the aftermath effects on the ecosystem and the wildlife as a whole are unfathomable. With such conflicts being witnessed all over the world, the endangered species in the UAE and the rest of the world have become a topic for debates. According to Mallon & Kingswood (2001), several groups both from the government and the private sector are uniting to blow the trumpet on the need to preserve wildlife in general, and endangered species in particular.
Additionally, Ajou (2012) notes that the UAE has tremendously failed to protect its endangered species. It has, thus, faced suspension on two separate occasions with the recent one being in 2001. Studies have shown that UAE emerged as a harp for the international smuggling of endangered species from countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. According to Ajou (2012), this happened despite the fact that the UAE was subjected to the resolutions by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). He notes that this was laxity custom regulations and controls, and large shipments from Africa majorly contributed to this breaking of law. Ajou (2012) further argues that the UAE was and is still an attractive market for trade in endangered species, especially rare live mammals, skins of snakes, ivory, and other animals.
The State of Endangered Species in the UAE
According to Ferris-Lay (2011), the signing of the treaty with CITES, the aim of which was to protect species of flora and fauna that are endangered by illegal trade was a profound step in the history of the UAE. This is because it marked the beginning of the fight against illegal trade not just by the locals, but also the foreigners who attempt to smuggle animals through this country. As a result of this agreement, CITES has released status reports on the member countries on how they progressed in the measures to enhance the survival of endangered species in the world.
Reports from CITES on the UAE do not show a promising picture, since the country was among those with high incidences of unlawfully imported or privately owned animals. Some of these animals were captured and kept in Abu Dhabi. The report indicated that in total, 38 Houbara Bustards, 65 falcons, 128 tortoises, five monkeys, five bush babies and a Silvery Baboon were surrendered during the year 2010. With the global industry of illegal trading in endangered species estimated at $10 billion annually, Ferris-Lay (2011) notes that different governments and stakeholders, like CITES, still have a lot to do to reduce these cases. Ferris-Lay (2011), in his study found out that trading in endangered species, whether animals or plants, ranks high among the factors causing the decline of diversity.
However, Broomhall (2011)notes thattheUAE has had far reaching changes which have influenced all aspects of life, from the way of doing business to culture and education. Most of these changes have contributed to the development of the region in terms of economic growth and social integration. He, however, notes that the benefits have gone in tandem with the mounting pressure on environmental resources and wildlife in general.
In addition, Broomhall (2011) argues that the situation in UAE has remained precarious in terms of preservation of endangered species of Flora and Fauna. This is in spite of the measures that the authority both in the UAE itself and other organizations have put in place to stop destruction of wildlife in the UAE or through the UAE. The situation has been made worse by the recent blossoming of Dubai as an international destination which has intensively attracted animal traffickers.
Mallon & Kingswood (2001) note that the situation has worsened towards the end of the last century, with numerous cases of people caught smuggling live or dead animals which are endangered through the UAE. The Emirates itself through its Ministry of Environment and Water Conservation has formulated policies to act as guidelines in handling the cases of endangered wildlife. For instance, there is effort to officially declare as many places as possible as protected areas for wildlife that are endangered. So far, in line with the Ministry of Environment and Water, more than 5000km2 of the country’s total 83600km2 is currently under the government’s protection. Similarly, over 20 areas have been declared protected by the ministry concerned. This fact points out to the efforts that the country is making to ensure high level of protection of the endangered species (Mallon& Kingswood 2001).
Another reason why the UAE have had to handle with care the problem of endangered species is the influence that its own civil activists have on the issue. Reeve observes that due to rampant cases of people trafficking animals to be used as pets in homes, there have been calls from the activists for the need of the government to illegalize this practice. The activists have been against the culture that permits the use or raring of wild animals and plants as pets in homes. They argue that the practice has since led to the increased demand and, thus, extinction of these animals. As a response to this situation, many rights activists have called for the ban of the use of live or dead animals in homes either as pets or as decorations (Reeve, 2002). This has to an extent helped to fight the danger of extinction that hundreds of species of flora and fauna in the UAE face. However, Reeve (2002) argues that the challenge to this regulation has been the issue associated with its reinforcement by the government authorities. This is because the very government also seeks to respect the cultures of a cosmopolitan population in this country.
Measures to Mitigate Illegal Trading in Endangered Species
Ajou (2012)notes, that like any country in the world, the UAE has its own challenges when it comes to tackling the issue of smuggling of wild flora and fauna. However, efforts have been made by the Ministry of Environment and Water with the intention of preserving flora and fauna that are endangered of extinction. The government through the ministry has also officially declared some areas as preserves of the wildlife. The ministry has noted that the basic action towards protecting endangered species starts with enhancing environmental security. It has, thus, put measures in place towards updating the national strategy for the protected areas, as well as for the establishment of various national biodiversity strategies that can be used as a yard stick in the evaluation of achievement. Another strategy has been to carry out continuous survey to identify the existing flora and fauna species which could be endangered. The findings of such surveys can be utilized by the ministry in developing better systems of protection.
Ajou (2012) also notes that public education about the imperiled animals can help to increase awareness concerning the environment and the community responsibility in preserving and conserving endangered species. As a representative of the government, the Dubai Customs is greatly involved in educating the public on the protection of the environment and habitats where wild flora and fauna are found. There have also been several attempts to ensure that these efforts incorporate the revelation of the harm that is done to the ecosystem if animals are poached or smuggled.
The State of Endangered Species across the World
According to Ajou (2012), conservation of wildlife across the world has been a challenged task, especially with the increase of human population. Similarly, climatic changes have caused a shift in the ecosystem, forcing some of the rare animals to disappear from the environment. As a result, many combined factors have continued to work against the conservation of endangered species.
However, Mallon & Kingswood (2001) observe that CITES has lauded countries like China and Kenya which have successfully launched national policies on the protection of areas meant for conservation of wildlife. For instance, Kenya has been on the forefront in the fight against trading of ivory from Africa. This has immensely contributed to the preservation of the environment where elephants and other rare animals, like the Sitatunga antelope, are found. China, on the other hand, has come up with strict measures against anyone found in trading the animal products. The country has effectively placed charges on those who are found guilty of the offense (Mallon & Kingswood, 2001).
Other efforts made in protecting the endangered species across the world are concerned with the provision of relevant education to people, who are directly involved in countering environmentally related criminal activities. There have also been attempts to use modern technology in monitoring the movement of endangered animals while in their natural environment using the Geographical Positioning Systems to keep poachers away. Additionally, Reeve (2002) notes that the amendment to Wildlife Bill put forward by pioneer countries like Kenya have managed to elicit interest in promotion of the protection of endangered species by other countries.
However, according to the report by CITES secretariat (2006), besides the usual factors that have hampered the efforts of conservation, financial constraints have also contributed to the delay in preserving the environment. This is because most of people who deal in the illegal trading of the endangered species are wealthy individuals who use their money to perpetuate their business. Reeve (2002) argues that this points to the fact that protection of the endangered species will only be achieved through the enactment and reinforcement of policies. This has been found to be effective in some countries like China. Similarly, he notes that public education will equally be important, as it helps people to appreciate the significance of having a sustainable ecosystem.
From the above discussion, it is evident that the endangered species in the UAE still face a lot of threats, especially with the rapid expansion of the cities in this country. Issues of smuggling and illegal trafficking are currently on the rise. However, efforts from the government through the Ministry of Environment and Water and Abu Dhabi Customs have helped to stem down the vice. Similarly, it is evident that the challenges of climatic changes and increasing human population added more strain to the efforts of conserving endangered species. However, some countries, like Kenya and China, have made great strides in containing incidences of poaching on endangered species in their ecosystems. Their approaches can, thus, be emulated by other countries.