Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue's Rob Yordi shares the centre's role in the region
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Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue’s Rob Yordi shares the centre’s role in the region

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue’s Rob Yordi shares the centre’s role in the region

The general curator of SeaWorld Abu Dhabi and Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue tells us how the centre will enable marine conservation and build a strong regional rescue network

Neesha Salian
Robert Yordi of Seaworld

Tell us about Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Abu Dhabi and the role you see it playing in the region.

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Abu Dhabi is the first-of-its-kind dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre in the region, serving as an advanced knowledge hub for marine science.

Building on SeaWorld’s legacy of being one of the largest marine animal rescue organisations in the world, Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Abu Dhabi aims to bring their nearly 60 years of experience and knowledge in animal care, rescue, rehabilitation and conservation to the UAE and wider region.

As one of the earliest team members on this project, it is truly exciting to witness the realisation of the center and the upcoming park.

Being a part of this talented team, overseeing the development of our aquaculture facilities and veterinary clinics, as well as the launch of a modern rescue fleet equipped with state-of-the-art vessels that will soon venture into the Abu Dhabi mangroves and Arabian Gulf to save animals in need, is a privilege and a source of immense satisfaction.

As the UAE’s first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return center supporting regional and global conservation efforts, what are some of its key highlights?

Spanning nearly 9,000 square metres, Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue will serve as the region’s knowledge hub for marine science and environmental education.

Building on the four “Rs” which you mentioned in your question, in addition to education the key highlights of the centre will be its focus on research, rescue, rehabilitation and return.

This includes some state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure, such as two custom-made rescue boats and personal watercraft as well as other vehicles for rescue purposes, rescue pools with lifting floors and full spectrum lighting to mimic day and night, a rescue clinic and veterinary hospital, as well as dry and wet classrooms and an auditorium seating over 150 people.

Tell us about the team that will power the centre.

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue brings together a skilled multinational and multidisciplined team of marine scientists, veterinarians, animal care professionals, and marine animal rescue experts as well as a joint team of educators with SeaWorld Abu Dhabi. The centre’s Rescue Team will aim to support the development of a strong regional rescue network by working closely with partners and authorities to rescue, rehabilitate and return marine animals to their natural habitats.

On the other hand, the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Research Team will conduct fundamental and applied studies focusing on the marine ecology of the Gulf covering topics such as marine biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, sensitive wildlife conservation, critical habitats restoration, fisheries, pollution and wildlife health.

What are some of the highlights when it comes to this region’s marine environment?

The Arabian Gulf’s marine environment is characterised by unique and diverse ecosystems with several highlights, including:

Coral reefs: The Arabian Gulf is home to some of the world’s most significant coral reefs, including the Dubai and Abu Dhabi coral reefs. These reefs provide habitats for various marine species and are essential for maintaining the Gulf’s ecological balance.

Marine biodiversity: Despite its extreme environmental conditions, the Arabian Gulf boasts rich marine biodiversity, with over 700 species of fish and more than 200 species of coral.

Endemic species: The Gulf is home to several species that are found only in this region, such as the Arabian carpet shark, Arabian angelfish, and the Arabian pipefish.

Seagrass beds: The Gulf is also known for its extensive sea grass beds that serve as breeding grounds and habitats for various marine species, including endangered dugongs.

Mangroves: The Gulf’s coastlines, primarily in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, are lined with extensive mangrove forests that provide critical nurseries and habitats for fish and other marine species, as well as playing a crucial role in maintaining the Gulf’s overall ecological balance.

What are some of the challenges threatening the marine environment and marine life in the UAE and around?

An extension of the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Gulf is a relatively young sea that boasts unique environmental conditions due to factors such as depth, currents, salinity, and temperature. However, the extreme environmental condition of the Gulf poses significant challenges for the diverse range of marine species that inhabit its waters. While much remains unknown about how these species have adapted to survive in this environment, our work aims to answer fundamental ecological questions to safeguard the marine ecosystems in the region.

While our team is still in the early stages of investigating these specificities and their impact on marine species, we are acutely aware that larger marine flora and fauna can be severely impacted by these conditions, as well as their proximity to human activities.

Tell us about SeaWorld’s conservation work. How will be see it unfold in this region and what will be the key areas of focus?

SeaWorld is committed to conservation and environmental stewardship, and this commitment extends to our presence in the UAE with the opening of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s first overseas park in May.

SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will showcase SeaWorld’s dedication to marine conservation, research, and education, and build on its legacy of nearly 60 years in marine life rescue and conservation. SeaWorld’s conservation work in the UAE will focus on several key areas, including:

  • Marine conservation and research: It will serve as a hub for marine conservation and research, providing a platform for scientists and researchers to study and protect marine life in the UAE and beyond.
  • Education and awareness: SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will offer educational programmes for visitors of all ages, with a focus on increasing awareness and understanding of marine life and the importance of conservation.
  • Animal rescue and rehabilitation: It has a long history of rescuing and rehabilitating sick, injured, and orphaned marine animals. SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will continue this tradition by working with local authorities and organisations to provide care for marine animals in need.
  • Sustainable practices: It will prioritise sustainable practices in all aspects of its operations, including energy and water conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable sourcing.
  • Community engagement: It will engage with local communities to build partnerships and support conservation efforts in the UAE and the wider region.
  • Overall, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will be a world-class destination that showcases the beauty and diversity of marine life while promoting conservation and environmental stewardship. The park will serve as a powerful tool for research, education, and conservation, and will help to protect and preserve marine life in the UAE and beyond.

How will the centre work with the community and schools to raise awareness about marine life and its conservation?

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue’s Education Team will soon offer workshops in schools that support ‘Next Generation Science Standards’ and other internationally benchmarked learning aims.  We also aim to provide a unique curriculum that engages all generations in scientific thinking for ocean health in our everyday lives.

Most importantly, we want to make our research accessible. In the long term, the centre also hopes to host public events such as seminars and science talks covering a wide range of topics related to marine sciences, with local and international top marine scientists.

The overall aim of Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Abu Dhabi’s education program to inspire the public’s commitment to marine conservation by raising scientific awareness and promoting responsible behavior towards the marine environment. Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue seeks to foster the next generation of local marine scientists as it will welcome university students to pursue their studies in marine science and conservation within its research division.

Tell us how this project ties in with Miral and Abu Dhabi’s larger vision and strategy.

Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue is an important part of Miral’s and Abu Dhabi’s larger vision and strategy, particularly as the UAE declared 2023 as the ‘Year of Sustainability’.

Miral, which is responsible for the development and operation of the centre, is committed to promoting sustainability and environmental stewardship in all aspects of its operations. This project aligns with this commitment and aims to raise awareness about marine conservation and sustainability in the UAE and beyond.

More specifically, two central pillars of the Miral strategy are Innovation and Partnerships, and at the centre this will be part and parcel of what we set to achieve.

Our state-of-the-art facilities are some of the best displays of veterinary innovation the world has to offer, and by always exploring partnerships in the country and wider region we build on Miral’s vision and strategy. Overall, with the UAE’s rich seafaring past, Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue is also testament to Miral’s focus on reflecting the unique culture and heritage of Abu Dhabi.

Read: Cover feature: How Miral is transforming Abu Dhabi with its grand vision

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