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  WWF 28 May 06
Students develop campaign to protect coral reefs in the Arabian Gulf

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: A children's film and a poster to sway public opinion on environmental protection were the winning entries in a campaign aimed at saving coral reefs from rampant coastal development.

The winning entries were produced by communication students from the Abu Dhabi Women's College (ADWC) for the Eco Challenge 2006, a WWF-UAE initiated project.

"The project's goal is to boost the effectiveness of conservation action in the country by encouraging community participation through educational institutes," explained Razan Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Emirates Wildlife Society, a local partner of WWF-UAE. "We aspire to promote an education that also delivers an environmental education."

The project introduced students to topical environmental issues of which they selected the subject: coastal: development vs. coral reef protection.

Consultations with various stakeholders including developers, environmentalists, as well as marketing and media personalities were taken up before the students ultimately decided in support of coral reef protection.

Campaign strategies developed by the students were then evaluated by a panel of experts carefully selected to cover both theoretical and practical aspects of the subject.

The children's film, 'We are coral reefs', sporting a jingle of the same name, scored the highest, followed by a poster that showed construction looming over a coral graveyard and the slogan: Why are you killing us?

"This has been a wonderful way to expose students to issues in the UAE that affect them directly," commented Yasmine Zaki, a ADWC journalism instructor. "It has created an awareness that did not previously exist."

Project Eco Challenge will continue in the years ahead to engage youth in nature conservation and to help future communication professionals become environmentally-conscious citizens.

The Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, both part of WWF's Global 200 Eco-regions, have some ecosystems of biodiversity value associated with them. These are islands, coral reefs, sea grasses, intertidal areas, salt marshes, 'khors' (tidal inlets) and mangroves.

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