Bulletin 05 July 1978: Chairman's Report for 1977
Chairman's Report for 1977

Chairman's Report

The Chairman began by recalling that the Emirates Natural History Group (ENHG) only began its activities towards the end of 1976. When Professor Bertram gave a talk to a group interested in natural history on 15 November 1976, those present could not have foreseen how rapidly the ENHG would grow. The group established themselves a little more formally early in 1977 and a committee was set up. By the end of the year there were over 200 members in the group.

The committee organized 22 talks in the period under review. Seven of these were specifically on zoological and botanical subjects. In addition to Professor Bertram on Dugongs, the group heard two talks by the previous Chairman, Captain John Stewart-Smith, on Waders of the UAE. There were also talks on Lizards and on Snakes of the UAE. Mr. Muhammad Khan, Head of the Forestry Department of Abu Dhabi Municipality, gave a talk on Natural Vegetation and Afforestation in Abu Dhabi.

Ten talks came under the general heading of natural history and archaeology: Life in the Desert, Sand Sabkha and Shells, the Liwa, Gulf Weather, Land Forms in the UAE, People of the UAE, Antique Maps of Arabia and the Gulf, and Archaeology in Eastern Arabia. In addition, the Group was fortunate enough to hear Mr. Wilfred Thesiger talk and introduce the film "The Empty Quarter". M. Serge Cleuziou, Head of the French Archaeological Team in Al Ain, spoke about their excavations at Jebel Hafit.

The remaining five talks were of general interest: on Masirah Island, Yemen (TAR), Nepal and Overland to India (in two parts). Many of these talks have been recorded in the ENHG Bulletins.

The Group organized three field trips during 1977: to Bahrani Island to look at the shore, the shells and the birds, and two archaeological visits to Umm an Nar and Al Ain. In addition many little groups organized bird watching trips or hunted for archaeological sites, fauna or flora.

Three of the Bulletins referred to above appeared in 1977, and at the year's end, one further one was in preparation. The Group managed to keep up a fairly high standard of reporting and writing; many well-known journals have started in this humble way.

Another aspect of the ENHG's activities was the setting up of a system of recorders. These reported the year's developments as follows:

A. Ornithology (Major John Stewart-Smith then Mr. Mark Hollingworth)
165 species have now been recorded on Abu Dhabi Island including 12 new ones in 1977 alone. During the course of the year, 202 species were noted in the UAE as a whole, making a grand total of species recorded in the UAE to date of 295. Frequent bird watching trips were made to many parts of the UAE, and two extremely knowledgeable talks were given.
B. Archaeology (Mr. David Corfield)
In addition to the two talks and the two field trips mentioned above, liaison was established with other archaeological groups in the Gulf. Seven possible small sites have been found and recorded (in addition to the known main sites).
C. Botany (Pat Harris)
Liaison with the Herbarium at Kew and with Kuwait University enabled work to begin in identifying the commoner desert flora. Mr. Khan's talk was a great help in identifying the commoner desert trees.
D. Corals and Marine Flora (Mr. Graham Heald)
The recorder took many photographs and is building up lists of identified species.
E. Marine Fishes (Mr. R.W. Brown)
The recorder has collected records of a considerable number of identified species from the region, and contributes a regular series of articles in the Bulletin entitled "Fishes of Abu Dhabi".
F. Amphibians and Reptiles (Mr. H.N.B. Brown)
The recorder reports that reptile life in the region of Abu Dhabi Island appears to be restricted to sea snakes, lizards and turtles. There are no reports of land snakes. (Two species of sea snakes have been identified with a reasonable degree of certainty.)

The Chairman thanked the recorders for their work and appealed for volunteers to act as recorders in the fields of geology, insects and marine invertebrates, which would admittedly need expert treatment.

A Library has been started in a modest way, including a few reference books and a collection of articles relevant to this area. The Group has also made contact with many other bodies (apart from those referred to above). These include: The Fauna Preservation Society, The Office of the Conservation and Environmental Advisor, Muscat, Kuwait NHG, The Arabian NHG (Dhahran), The Center for Overseas Pest Research, The Marine Turtle Association of Toronto University, Cambridge University Zoology Department, The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and The National Environmental Research Council (UK).

In conclusion, the Chairman appealed for help from the members in any field in which they felt they could contribute. Apart from the need for a constant supply of speakers, and for more recorders, anyone who could give secretarial assistance, or organize a trip, record sightings of species of all kinds, or contribute their enthusiasm in any way would be very welcome. The previous chairman and the two secretaries, Dr. John Scott and his successor, Mr. Bish Brown, had all put in a great deal of work and it was largely thanks to them that the ENHG had had such an interesting, varied and active initial year.

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