Wild Arabia: conservation of the species

A new wildlife exhibition, Wild Arabia with National Geographic Al Arabiya, seeks to combine art with preservation, education and innovative research. Daisy Carrington takes a closer look

An innovative series of photo exhibitions organised by Wild Arabia with National Geographic Al Arabiya has gone on display in downtown Dubai, educating passersby about a hundred different species that typically call the desert their home.

The group has charged itself with a weighty mission: it seeks to save Arabian wildlife from extinction. To further its goals, Wild Arabia has married art with preservation, education and innovative research.

“This is an educational awareness campaign, it’s not just about pretty pictures,” explains Caterina Lo Mascolo, Wild Arabia’s managing director. The campaign is the brainchild of Univers K, a Luxemburg-based company that creates long-term, inspirational projects in the fields of “art, design and life”. Lo Mascolo is also the founder of Univers K, and Wild Arabia is an initiative close to her heart.

The project has many layers, though the crux is the series of photo exhibits of local wildlife, which are sourced by National Geographic Arabiya. Univers K also commissioned journalists to write bios for all the showcased animals, including their vulnerability to extinction. This information was verified and enriched by Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the United Nations. What’s surprising is how difficult it was to find those images and the corresponding background information about these species.

“It was no easy feat,” says Lo Mascolo. “There is no stock library; that’s something we’re looking to create ourselves, for anyone who wants to do research in the future. And at present, there just isn’t nearly as much information about Arabian wildlife as there is about Canadian or European wildlife.” In an effort to increase the global stock of Arabian wildlife images, Wild Arabia and Canon Middle East also host an ongoing, bi-monthly photo contest.

Architect Franck Minthe, whose work was part of the inspiration behind the project, designed the installation at Emaar Boulevard in Downtown Dubai as well as an earlier exhibition, held along the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

“He’s really the original creator of the outdoor exhibition,” says Lo Mascolo. “He creates a conversation between passersby and the images that are showcased.” When Lo Mascolo approached Minthe about creating an exhibit showcasing Arabian wildlife, his response was “What Arabian wildlife?”

“That’s when I really knew this was a subject that needing addressing,” says Lo Macolo, adding, “The first way to create a culture of conservation is to be proud of what you see. But how can you, if you don’t even know if it exists?”

Wild Arabia with National Geographic Al Arabiya brought to you by Dolphin Energy is hosted by Emaar in Downtown Dubai until 12 May 2012