Virtual Safari Experience at Abu Dhabi Airport
Travellers jetting off around the world from Abu Dhabi International Airport can be transported straight into the wild without ever taking off from the ground.
A booth set up in the Terminal 1 departures area allows jetsetters to visit a virtual reality wildlife world created by using HoloLens technology.
With the help of a holographic computer, the curious can experience simulated interactions with wild animals in their natural environment, and hopefully learn something about about protecting endangered species.
The presentation includes a virtual brochure with information on wildlife species.
“We want to make the public aware of the seriousness of tampering with wildlife for unjustified reasons motivated purely by personal interests,” said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
The reasoning behind having the simulation in the airport, he said, was because airport customs and traffic authorities had a vital role in preventing the illicit trafficking of animals.
The Government considers wildlife an important part of its heritage and regards the protection and overcoming challenges of endangered species as a top priority, the minister said.
“Conservation of the ecosystem is one of the most important responsibilities we have as a nation and as human beings,” Dr Al Zeyoudi said.
“Unfortunately, we still see certain harmful practices, such as illegal trade in endangered animals that cause an imbalance to the ecosystem and adversely impact our environment,” he said.
The virtual reality booth is run in partnership by the United for Wildlife organisation and the ministry as part of the Beautiful in the Wild campaign.
Salem Al Rumaithi, executive director of technical affairs at Abu Dhabi Customs, said his staff were some of the most important players in the battle against extinction from poaching.
“Abu Dhabi Customs prevents illicit trafficking of environmentally harmful substances by building the capacities of customs inspectors and staff who are involved in monitoring and licensing of hazardous materials and wastes, besides plant and animal species threatened with extinction,” he said.
Abu Dhabi Customs staff are trained in the international environmental agreements such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), to which the UAE is a signatory and which makes the trade of endangered animals without a permit illegal.
Mr Al Rumaithi said that customs officers were the “green fence” of any society.
The UAE signed up to Cites in 1990 and issued Federal law 11 in 2002 to control the illegal trade.
The Wildlife Conservation Society estimates that the illegal trade in wildlife is worth between AED 15 billion and AED 20 billion dollars a year.
Alongside drugs, weapons and human trafficking, it is one of the most profitable illegal activities in the world.
It is also seen as a major factor in why animals are becoming extinct.
The Cites convention covers about 35,000 species of rare animals and plants.