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Young conservation activists tackle sixth mass extinction issues during summit at UOWD

Saturday, 11 February, 2017

After decades of summits, leadership meetings and what more, conservation still remains a hot topic of discussion globally. How to protect mother earth for future generations to come, remains as a priority point on many political and general agendas.

Fully supporting conservation, the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) hosted its annual Youth Earth Summit (YES!) with the theme of “Sixth Mass Extinction – Myth or New Future”. Organized by Dr Zeenath Reza Khan, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering & Information Sciences, the summit aimed at encouraging youngsters to share their innovative ideas to help tackle the numerous environmental threats we face in current circumstances. “Born out of a single subject, YES! is part of the Envirotalk Series that aims to encourage and engage the UOWD community and the greater society in conversation over global environmental issues”, commented Dr Khan. “Since its inception in 2014, we have seen increased participation from students and experts to join in our various activities”

Running for its third year, the YES Summit saw 55 school students supported by their mentors, from 10 schools gathering together to propose initiatives to a panel of seven judges representing the private and government sectors as well as various academic and environmental institutions from across the UAE.

Dr Sabir bin Muzaffar, Associate Professor, College of Science, UAE University, in Al Ain, provided a keynote address in which he discussed the struggles and successes of a conservation program that he spear heads on the Socotra Cormorants in the Siniya Islands in UAE. His lively and humorous presentation left the audience wanting to know more whilst he continued to share his wealth of knowledge and experience.

The summit continued with the various school teams presenting their research, conservation activities and recommendations.  The presentations, debates and discussions were rich in research, data, opinions and feelings which proved be to immensely thought-provoking and led to much debate among the audience.

The Delhi Private School in Sharjah, who was awarded first place, wowed the judges with an excellent presentation based on their research and conservation activities. “2016 was declared the hottest year ever”, the team commented and raised the question – the climate is changing, are we? The school, the students told, was highly active in conservation activities and conducted research surveys, awareness campaigns and planted 40 trees in 2016 as part of their conservation efforts.

Ms Hessa al Qahtani, Unit Head of Conservation Program at Al Ain Zoo Park & Resort, concluded the summit and spoke passionately about what it meant to be youth, an Emirati and a woman in the field of conservation in the UAE and generally Al Ain Zoo’s various conservation efforts.

During the prize-giving ceremony, the girls team from The Indian High School, Dubai were awarded second place followed by the girls team from the Islamiya English School, Abu Dhabi in third place.

Judges for the summit were Dr Sabir bin Muzaffar, UAE University;  Dr Parvez Fattah, American University of Sharjah; Dr Prashanth Marpu, Masdar Institute; Dr Mohammad Ali Reza Khan, Dubai Safari; John Pereira, Environment and Protected Areas Authority, Sharjah;  Hessa al Qahtani, Al Ain Zoo and Lisa Banfield, Al Ain Zoo