Ras al Khor Wildife Sanctuary (RAKWS) is one of the few urban protected areas found in the arid zone. Located in the heart of Dubai and against the backdrop of the Dubai Skyline, this 6.2 square km sanctuary is home to 450 species of animals and 47 species of plants.
It is a haven for migratory birds! In winter the number of birds may reach up to 25,000 of 180 different species recorded so far. Flamingoes are the main attraction here for visitors but the sanctuary also hosts large populations of mallard, pintail, common teal, waders, shorebirds and raptors.
The Environment Department of Dubai Municipality is the management authority of the Sanctuary as per Law No. 11 of 2003. The site enjoys protected area management provisions including a ban on hunting, shooting and disturbing wildlife within the area.
RAKWS was officially designated as the first Ramsar site of the UAE in 2007 and is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. It also won the GCC Award for Environment and Wildlife – The Best Protected Area in the Gulf countries and Middle East Award for Excellence of Municipalities in the category of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources in 2016.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary plays a vital role in spreading awareness about the environment and conservation through its education programmes for schools, universities, public and private organizations and general public alike.
History of Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
The importance of RAKWS is beyond its aesthetic value. It serves as a beacon for the significance of biodiversity as a life support system for humanity’s continual existence and is an integral part of the cultural and traditional heritage of the United Arab Emirates.
A wetland forming at the end of the ecologically important and culturally rich Dubai Creek, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary silently replenishes the fishing grounds which were once a hub for fishing in the 18th century for three settlements; now known as Deira, Shindiga and Bur Dubai. Remnants of the time honored fishing, pearling and trade industries can still be seen in the Creek today as traditional dhows gracefully float daily over the serene Arabian waters.
RAKWS was established in 1985 and was officially declared as protected area on March 1, 1998 by Local Order No. 2 of 1998. In December 2003, His Highness, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai promulgated Law No. 11 of 2003 on the Establishment of Protected Areas in the Emirate of Dubai giving RAKWS full protection from Dubai Municipality.
Designated as the Ramsar Site in 2007 under the Ramsar Convention, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a globally recognized wetland of international importance.
Wetland - not a wasteland!
A wetland is an area on land which is covered by water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are among the world’s most productive environments. They are pockets of biological diversity that provide water and primary productivity upon which countless plant and animal species depend for survival. Wetlands like Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary support high concentrations and many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates species.
Wetlands also protect the shores from wave actions and floods, absorb pollutants, store carbon, purify water and provide a wide range of other ecosystem services.
To learn more about the Ramsar Convention, Please visit: http://www.ramsar.org/
Legal and Policy Framework
The Natural Resources Conservation Section of Dubai Municipality is in charge of managing the natural reserves under the Law No.11 of 2003 on the Establishment of Protected Areas in the Emirate of Dubai issued by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, The Vice President and Prime Minister on the United Arab Emirates, and the Ruler of Dubai, with the aim of preserving the natural environment, wildlife and marine life.
Dubai Municipality has played an integral role in the development and implementation of a number of key policies, plans and programmes to facilitate effective management and conservation of the natural reserves of Dubai.
Over the years, Dubai Municipality has worked with several partners and experts in the establishment of infrastructure and provision of necessary supplies to protect Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and to encourage eco-tourism.
Existing Federal and Local Laws govern the protection and conservation of natural resources in Dubai. Some of the Federal Laws include, No.9 of 1983 (ban on wildlife hunting, gathering and destruction), No. 23 of 1999 (Exploitation, Protection and Development of living aquatic resources in the waters of UAE and No. 24 of 1999 (Protection and Development of the Environment).
At the Emirate level, among the relevant laws include: Local Order No.11 of 2003 (Establishment of Protected Areas in the Emirate of Dubai), Local Order No. 61 of 1991 (Environmental Protection Regulations in the Emirate of Dubai) and Local Order No. 2 of 1998 (Declaration of Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Emirate of Dubai.)
Local Order No. 11 of 2003 specifies:
“Any work, acts, activities or procedures which may destroy or damage wildlife, marine flora and fauna, and effect the aesthetic standard in protected areas, shall be prohibited; particularly the following:
- Hunting, transporting, killing or disturbing marine or other wildlife; or undertake any acts which lead to their destruction.
- Hunting, removal or transporting of any creatures or organic materials such as mollusks, coral reefs, rocks or soil for any purpose.
- Destroying or transporting plants from the protected areas.
- Damaging or disfiguring geological or geographical formations of areas considered to be the habitat of animal or plant species or their proliferation.
- Introducing non-indigenous species to the protected areas.
- Polluting the soil, water or air of the protected area by any means.
- Constructing buildings, structures, roads using motorized vehicles or practicing any agriculture, industrial or commercial activities in the protected areas, or practice any activity, acts or works in areas surrounding the conservation area unless by a permit from the competent authority in accordance with approved conditions and rules.