UAE Struggles to Save Dugongs From Extinction
As countries in the United Arab Emirates struggle to prove that they are taking sustainability seriously, Abu Dhabi is trying to burnish its environmental stewardship commitment with a plan to save the endangered dugong. Dugongs, closely related to manatees, are the only strictly marine mammal with an herbivorous diet. Spread across the shores of many countries from Egypt to India and Australia, they have a huge presence off the coast of Abu Dhabi. But the environmental degradation in the Arabian Gulf has wiped out countless clusters of seaweed and other marine plants on which dugongs feed. Now a coalition of UAE government agencies and NGOs are developing a plan to restore the habitat of these beautiful and peaceful creatures. Oil and gas have led to spectacular development throughout the UAE and its neighbors over the past generation. But that transformation has come at a cost. Hopefully the government of Abu Dhabi and its partners will prove that the drive to save the dugong from extinction is sincere and not just a public relations blast. The Gulf Region and its sublime beaches are too beautiful to destroy. These countries have got to do better to protect and reclaim the dugongs’ habitat.