The Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF together with event organizer Husaak Adventures, announced today that 400 people took part in the first ever Caracal Challenge this weekend - a one-of-a-kind 15km excursion through Al Khatim desert. Participants tested their endurance, navigated the desert landscape at night and learned about the UAE’s natural environment, all while contributing funds for an important cause. The initiative donated all net profits towards EWS-WWF’s Terrestrial Conservation Programme that is designed to protect land-based species and habitats across the UAE and Gulf region. The funds collected will go towards developing a central biodiversity database, integrating protected area networks and building awareness around the initiative.
Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, Deputy Director General of EWS-WWF, commented “Residents of the UAE should be so proud to live in a country that is home to such a diverse mix of natural habitats and rich wildlife. Over the years, the UAE has been rapidly developing to meet population needs and socio-economic demand; this significant pressure has, as a result, impacted the natural environment and biodiversity.”
Abdullatif added: “Events like the Caracal Challenge have proven that the community can come together and make a real difference by contributing towards EWS-WWF’s work to build a future where people live in harmony with nature, and by spreading awareness about the rich natural heritage we have in the UAE. We’re absolutely delighted that 400 people rallied to recognise the cause, and used the chance to test their physical and mental strength too!”
The Challenge was organised by Husaak Adventures, with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) as the event strategic partner and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA) as the official tourism partner, along with support from several corporate sponsors. It saw participants embark on a 15km adventure through Abu Dhabi’s Al Khatim desert, using the moon and stars for navigation. Around 30 experienced guides, trained by the terrestrial teams of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi and EWS–WWF, educated them about the rich natural heritage of the UAE. Organisers used the six-hour excursion as an opportunity to teach participants about species such as the Arabian oryx, the Houbara bustard, red foxes, Arabian hares, spiders and scorpions.
Commenting on the success of this initiative, Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Executive Director - Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, said: “The Caracal Challenge was conceived to spark UAE residents’ curiosity in this nation’s natural heritage and to encourage them to contribute towards its protection. Our desert environment is rich in a variety of wildlife, much of which has adapted fascinating features to be able to thrive in the desert. Unfortunately, the rapid progress of development is a double-edged sword that has increased human-wildlife interaction placed unprecedented pressure on natural ecosystems. The Caracal Challenge was a fantastic way to raise awareness about the importance of our desert habitats and unite passionate individuals in our quest to protect them.”
Ali Khalil Husain of Husaak Adventures said: “This event was the UAE’s first ever 15km desert excursion designed to enable the community to reconnect with nature and support environmental conservation across the Emirates. We feel honoured to have worked with our partners to attract these 400 outdoor enthusiasts and provide them with unparalleled access to the magnificent desert landscape, where they have been able to follow Bedouin traditions and learn about local nature and what they can do to protect it.”
The event attracted people from across the GCC - families, fitness enthusiasts and adventurers - who were all eager to do their bit for the environment.