Developer Miral hopes that the addition of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi to Yas Island will help rescue and rehabilitate populations of dugong, turtles and other marine animals in the waters off Abu Dhabi, according to CEO Mohammed Abdullah Al Zaabi.
Speaking to Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Al Zaabi said that the Yas Island project, first announced in 2016, will be primarily focused on education and conservation.
“One of our focuses is ‘R4’: rescue, rehabilitation, release and research,” he said. “This will be dedicated for marine animals.”
SeaWorld’s facilities, he added, will include state-of-the-art research facilities in which large animals can be studied and provided care.
Among the animals that Al Zaabi hopes can benefit from the facility are dugong, a medium-sized marine mammal that is closely related to manatees. Of an estimated 7,300 dugong living in the Arabian Gulf, 3,000 are believed to inhabit Abu Dhabi waters.
“Today we don’t have a dedicated facility to manage such big animals,” he said. “R4 will be the right place for them. Actually, anything all the way from turtles to dugongs, we can take care of them, rescue them and place them again back in their homes.”
“That’s great for Abu Dhabi,” he added.
Al Zaabi – himself an avid Scuba diver – said he also hopes that SeaWorld will help raise awareness of plastic population in the sea, which he added that he often personally encounters.
“That’s annoying me; awareness is not so high,” he said. “But when you come to see animals and how they behave, you create an emotional link between you and the animals.
“Next time, when you go on a fishing trip you’ll think twice before throwing plastic. Plus, ringing young kids to see animals will change their perceptions and increase awareness,” he added.
Al Zaabi said that SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is “on schedule” to finish construction in 2022 as was originally announced.