New species added to invertebrates list after UAE discovery

Abu Dhabi, A new species has been added to the global list of invertebrates after an unexpected discovery in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The metallic-coloured Cuckoo Wasp (Hedychridium anithaae), measuring just under four mm, was discovered in Abu Dhabi's Al Wathba Wetland Reserve during regular seasonal wildlife trapping carried out by researchers at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).

It has now been added to the list of hundreds of invertebrates already recorded on the reserve.

"This discovery further enhances Al Wathba Wetland Reserve's status as a biodiversity hotspot that must remain protected. The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is proud of this discovery and will continue to ensure the effective management and monitoring of species, water quality and vegetation on the reserve," said Shaikha Al Dhaheri, executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector at EAD.

The species has been named Hedychridium anithaae, in honour of the scientist who discovered it, Anita Saji, assistant scientist at EAD.

Saji, who led the team and made the discovery, said: "This discovery indicates how much remains both unknown and unexplored from Abu Dhabi's biodiversity. To have this species named after me is a big honour and we are already preparing for further study of its biology."

The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is around 45 minutes away from the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi and was declared a protected area by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1998.

Sheikh Zayed's vision was to provide a suitable habitat for migratory birds and a breeding area for the greater flamingo. The reserve has been managed by EAD ever since.

As a result of its protected status, Al Wathba has since become a safe breeding haven for the greater flamingo, which bred successfully for the first time on the reserve in 1998.

Today, the reserve supports a rich variety of wildlife, including 238 species of invertebrates, 11 mammals, 10 reptiles and more than 250 species of birds. The reserve is also rich in plant species, with 37 species having been documented.

In 2013, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve was recognised internationally and declared a Ramsar site, the first in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. With this recognition, this site joins a prestigious list of over 2,000 other internationally recognised wetlands around the world.


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