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40611 15 Apr 2021

Dubai Dolphin Survey Launched by Atlantis, The Palm

A project that will gather scientific baseline information about the local dolphin population off the coast of Dubai.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates(15 April 2021) We are excited to announce the launch of the Dubai Dolphin Survey 2021-22, a project which aims to gather scientific baseline information about the local dolphin population off the coast of Dubai. The project is led by Dr. Ada Natoli, the assistant professor at the Life and Environmental Sciences Department, College of Natural and Health Science, Zayed University, and founder and director of the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative. The last survey of its kind was conducted 8 years ago, and now with the funding and support from Atlantis, The Palm and F3 Marine, the project has been able to continue.

The team, led by Dr. Ada Natoli, are investigating the status of the local dolphin population through boat-based surveys, that will allow occurrence, distribution as well as photo-identification data collection. The data will be utilized to assess the estimated abundance of the species, population structure and if possible, population trend. Information on whales and dolphins in the Gulf and in UAE waters is scarce. Gathering evidence of the status of the population will help to formulate effective conservation measures that not only protect these species but also ensure the long-term viability or our marine resources.

With the support of all partners, we have now relaunched this year-long survey, which covers over 1,000 km2 of Dubai coastal waters. A first survey was conducted back in 2013-2014 by the UAE Dolphin Project for a full solar year, under the Dubai Municipality research permit, with the support of private local stakeholders. Similarly, this year, we are again grateful to the ongoing support of the Natural Resources Conservation Section, at Dubai Municipality, who have kindly provided the permit to conduct this important research. Leading this new survey is crucial to assess any changes in the dolphin population over the last 8 years.

The previous survey confirmed the regular presence of two species of dolphins, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the Indian Ocean Humpback dolphin, and one porpoise, the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise all considered threatened according to the IUCN Red List. Using photos of dolphins dorsal fins, the team completed a photo-identification catalogue of individuals. With this data, we can now try to recognise individuals again from the previous survey and gather a more precise idea of the residency and population size.

In just 4 weeks since restarting the project this year, the team has successfully recorded 4 sightings of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and 2 sightings of the rare and elusive Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, as well as other important marine animals such as turtles, sea snakes and cormorants.

Dr. Ada Natoli, assistant professor at the Life and Environmental Sciences Department, College of Natural and Health Science, Zayed University, and founder and director of the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative said,

"To compliment the boat survey, we are also rebooting the 'Report a Sighting' citizen science campaign, to encourage the public and people who operate vessels to report sightings of whales and dolphins. We will host a series of public virtual awareness sessions to ensure people are collecting the right information and reporting it, which will most certainly increase our understanding of these animals in our waters."

Currently, sightings of whales and dolphins can be reported on the UAE Dolphin Project website (www.uaedolphinproject.org) Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp or by email at sighting@uaedolphinproject.org.

Kelly Timmins, Director of Conservation, Educationand CSR at Atlantis Dubai said, "As a world-class facility, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, we are committed to conservation and scientific advancement. The role of the modern-day aquarium is to invest resources to help protect animals in the wild, in addition to providing exceptional animal care and educational programmes throughout their facilities. We are proud to be supporting such valuable research, which will ultimately serve to provide important information to formulate effective conservation measures."

Professor Fares Howari, Dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences at Zayed University said "This is an exciting project. Whales and dolphins play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem. Being at the top of the marine food chain, together with other species such as sharks and top marine predators, they are "Ecological Indicators" of the status of the sea. The project began after the successful completion of the last phases of ZU coral propagation project, which was part of the Coral Conservation in the Arabian Gulf supported from Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Nawah Energy". Prof Howari indicated that "the current project will boost marine science and marine biology research lines at ZU. The project will provide accurate information on dolphin population and their distribution in the Gulf. We shared understanding with our partners on the importance of this project, and the innovative approach to achieve its objectives".

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About the Partners

Dr. Ada Natoli is assistant professor at the Life and Environmental Sciences Department, College of Natural and Health Science, Zayed University, and founder and director of the UAE Dolphin Project Initiative. The UAE Dolphin Project is a non-profit initiative aiming to gather scientific information on the cetacean population in UAE and neighboring waters to support their conservation, raise public awareness, and promote the importance of these species in the marine environment.

Zayed University is a national and regional leader in educational innovation. Globally recognized as the leading university in the region for excellence in educational innovation, research, and student leadership development that serves the changing needs of the nation in economic, social and cultural advancements.

Atlantis, The Palm is the first entertainment resort destination in the region. Opened in September 2008, the unique ocean-themed resort features a variety of marine and entertainment attractions, as well as 23 hectares of waterpark amusement at Atlantis Aquaventure, all within a 46-hectare site. At Atlantis, The Palm we are committed to sustainability; to do business in ways that are good for people and the planet.

We are taking significant action to reduce our environmental footprint and to increase our contribution to society. As such, we have implemented an Environmental Management System that meets the requirements of the EarthCheck Company Standard, achieving Silver certification in 2020. Our programmes and initiatives focused on our four key priorities; responsible operations, marine conservation and animal care, education and awareness and corporate social responsibility.

As the first organisation in the region to become accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), we also maintain the highest standards of animal welfare and care. Home to 65,000 marine animals across 250 species; including sea jellies, tropical fish, sharks and rays, to Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins and South African fur seals, we are driven to build a life-long appreciation for marine life and encourage our guests to act on behalf of nature by delivering once-in-a-lifetime, meaningful and memorable experiences.

We have a Sustainability Action Plan in place which allows us to take greater strides towards our vision, which is to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development economic, social and environmental to become a more efficient, effective and responsible organisation for the long-term.

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Atlantis, The Palm Key Messages

Atlantis, The Palm is dedicated to supporting conservation and research. As a world-class accredited organization, our role is not only to deliver the highest standards care to our resident animals, but also to ensure we contribute to protecting species in the wild.

Atlantis, The Palm is committed to collaborating with a range of partners in order to deliver effective conservation action. Such partners can include research and academic institutions, and governmental and non-governmental organisations.

This is just part of a larger commitment to advance our sustainability effort, whereby one of our key priorities focuses on marine conservation and animal welfare. Our remaining key priorities centre around waste, water and energy management, as well increasing environmental education and cultural awareness.

Last year, we became the first organisation in the region to become accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whereby a thorough audit by external experts took place to assess our procedures and programmes against the leading industry standards.

We also attained Silver certification from EarthCheck, the worlds leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for the travel and tourism industry. After an external audit to assess our processes against the EarthCheck company standards, Atlantis, The Palm successfully achieved certification.

Atlantis, The Palm is committed to delivering engaging and impactful education programmes, which connect people to animals. The aim of every programme is to provide people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions to better protect the environment, whilst nurturing an appreciation for each and every animal under our care.

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For further information about Atlantis please call +971 4 426 1000, or visitwww.atlantis.com/dubai. Both low and high resolution colour photography of Atlantis is available atmedia.atlantisthepalm.com.

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About Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai

Located at the centre of the crescent of The Palm in Dubai, Atlantis, The Palm is the first entertainment resort destination in the region. Opened in September 2008, the unique ocean-themed resort features a variety of marine and entertainment attractions, as well as 22 hectares of waterpark amusement at Atlantis Aquaventure, all within a 46-hectare site. It is home to one of the biggest waterparks in the world and the one of the largest open-air marine habitats, with more than 65,000 marine animals in lagoons and displays including The Lost Chambers Aquarium, a maze of underwater corridors and passageways providing a journey through ancient Atlantis. Aquaventure Waterpark features 23.5 million litres of fresh water used to power 105 thrilling waterslides and attractions, including several world record-breaking slides, and two river rides featuring tidal waves and pools, water rapids and white-water chargers. Dolphin Bay, the unparalleled dolphin conservation and education habitat, and Sea Lion Point were created to provide guests a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn more about some of natures most friendly mammals. The resort boasts an impressive collection of luxury boutiques and shops as well as extensive meeting and convention facilities. Atlantis, The Palm is also known as the culinary destination in the region where guests can take their pick from a collection of 29 world-renowned restaurants including Bread Street Kitchen Bar, Hakkasan, Nobu, Ronda Locatelli, Seafire Steakhouse Bar and the award-winning underwater restaurant, Ossiano. Atlantis is also home to a buzzing nightlife scene with entertainment destination Wavehouse offering something for everyone, while WHITE Beach Restaurant is the perfect place to unwind with a drink as the sun slips into the Arabian Sea.