Chillout zone

Published: Saturday 31 August 2002

Native species of Arabia's Wildlife Centre (awc) can beat the heat of the desert. No sweat. For, the government-funded, reserve located on the outskirts of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, is fully air-conditioned. The awc houses the world's largest collection of animals and birds indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula. Most of the species in the awc are on the extinction list. The 1,200 inmates include an Arabian leopard as well as Arabian oryx, Houbara bustards, Gordon's wildcats, lizards, snakes, gazelles, rodents, foxes and baboons. Most importantly, the animals are set free in open enclosures filled with rocks, pools, shrubs or sand, depending on their natural habitat. Larger animals such as leopards and baboons are located outside and can be seen from behind mirrored glass.

The reserve is the brainchild of Abdul Aziz Abdulla-al-Midfa, director general of Sharjah's Environment and Protected Areas Authority. He contends that despite its dry appearance, a desert has a rich ecosystem. Midfa hopes awc will raise local and international awareness about the region's diverse wildlife.

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