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Kalba is a small town on the East coast of the Arabian Peninsula, part of the region owned by Sharjah, a member of the United Arab Emirates. Khor is the Arabic word for "port" or "harbor", and there is indeed a small/medium harbor at Kalba. When I was last there, it didn't seem to be thriving - the larger, more popular port at Khorfakkan seems to have thrown it into disuse.

The coast bends inwards slightly, and there is a small to medium sized tidal mangrove swamp on the edge of Kalba, which is home to the last 40 or so breeding pairs of White Crested Kingfishers.

As the home of such an obviously endangered creature, you'd expect the swamp to be a reserve of some sort, or at least well tended. In fact, the opposite is true. The proximity to the port, along with the tides and currents mean that the complex pools and waterways between the mangrove banks act as a sort of sieve for any pollution and assorted trash in the area.

The issue came to the ears of the Arabian Leopard Trust, who organized a crusade to purge (or at least clean up slightly) the swamp, and with the help of the Desert Rangers tour company and their collection of canoes, we were able to remove a veritable mountain of bottles, bags, cans and several of the larger species of tyre favored by heavy machinery.

The human residents of Khor Kalba didn't welcome our intrusion into what they regard as their territory - they initially tried to scare us off with tales of whirlpools and, bizarrely, pollution. The latter leads me to believe they didn't realize what we intended to do... but we were left unmolested for the remainder of the day, albeit under constant surveillance.

It is unfortunately impossible to prevent the accumulation of further trash at Khor Kalba, though I believe several cleanups have been attempted since then. As far as I know, the plight of the Kingfishers is still fairly severe - and there is unfortunately little we can do about this. I should probably note that I was last at Khor Kalba several years ago, and recent development of the Captive Breeding Centre (next to the Sharjah Natural History Museum) may have included the acquisition of a breeding pair of these beautiful birds.

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