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UAE Resident Heads Largest Environmental Charity, Saving Sharks & Turtles

Arabella Willing, a dedicated environmentalist in the UAE, has been honored with a gold medal in the Environmental Initiator Category at the inaugural Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Environmental Awards. While many Dubai residents typically spend their weekends indulging in leisurely activities, Arabella devotes her time to preserving the UAE's natural environment.

In her role as the Head of Conservation Outreach and Citizen Science at Emirates Nature – WWF, the largest environmental charity in the UAE, Arabella leads numerous initiatives aimed at conservation and environmental education. These efforts include organizing volunteer events focused on planting native trees, constructing traditional irrigation channels, monitoring turtle nests, and observing wild cats.

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One of the notable programs Arabella oversees is Leaders of Change, a membership platform offering participants opportunities for masterclasses, fieldwork, and personal experiences with scientists. Additionally, she coordinates Connect with Nature, a youth activity scheme in collaboration with the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, aimed at fostering environmental awareness among young people.

Arabella also spearheads various targeted campaigns across the country, such as the Notice Nature initiative in partnership with Mashreq customers and a collaboration with the Fujairah Environmental Authority to monitor the emirate's unique biodiversity, including the Arabian Caracal lynx.

Reflecting on her role, Arabella emphasizes the importance of public involvement in conservation efforts, stressing that one doesn't need to be a scientist to contribute. She believes in empowering the community to participate in environmental activities, including litter clean-ups, where volunteers not only remove debris but also analyze collected data to inform decision-making.

With over a decade of residency in the UAE, Arabella's commitment to environmental conservation has earned her recognition and accolades. Beyond her professional endeavors, she remains actively engaged in grassroots initiatives, such as the Saadiyat Island turtle patrol, which she founded and continues to support through workshops and training sessions.

In response to recent environmental challenges, such as storms affecting the UAE, Arabella and her team prioritize debris removal and restoration efforts in natural areas. They also focus on long-term strategies to enhance community resilience to natural disasters by harnessing the power of nature, such as through native species planting to stabilize soils.

Despite the unconventional work hours and demanding nature of her job, Arabella finds fulfillment in her role, expressing a deep passion for nature and environmental conservation. She values the opportunity to make a meaningful impact and appreciates the enthusiasm of volunteers who share her dedication.

Looking ahead, Arabella aims to inspire greater appreciation, understanding, and respect for nature among UAE residents. She believes that spending time outdoors not only promotes mental and physical well-being but also fosters a deeper connection with the environment. Arabella encourages volunteering as a fulfilling way to give back to the community and invites individuals to join her in the collective effort to protect and preserve the UAE's natural heritage.

April 27, 2024 11:05 a.m. 7256

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