The 45 turtles were rescued from the shores of the UAE and nursed back to health by the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP), one of the longest standing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in the region and the only project of its kind in the Middle East. The DTRP is at the forefront of sea turtle rehabilitation protocols and veterinary procedures. This latest release takes the total number of turtles rescued to 800 since the project began in 2004.
Five of the juvenile hawksbill turtles were recently exhibited at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in Dubai Mall to highlight the threat faced by this critically endangered species. Prior to their release into the Arabian Gulf, they were fitted with small satellite tags, sponsored by the Dubai Aquarium, to support the ongoing turtle tracking initiative. The turtles’ names are Balsam, Tara, Zoe, Jumeirah and Nawfal and can be tracked online via seaturtle.org
This technology will allow the DTRP to track their progress in the wild and enable the team to develop a picture of a young turtle’s journey in the region. Everyone is encouraged to track the turtles and check for updates on the Dubai Aquarium and the DTRP Facebook pages.
Warren Baverstock, Burj Al Arab’s Aquarium Operations Manager, said: “We are very proud to celebrate World Sea Turtle Day by releasing more rehabilitated sea turtles back into their environment. We are especially gratefully to the local community and organisations such as the Tourism Development & Investment Company and the Emirates Marine Environmental Group who brought many of the injured turtles to us so we were able to rehabilitate them. This year, we worked with the Dubai Aquarium team who assisted us with the final stages of rehabilitation of five critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Due to the large number of visitors who saw the turtles at the aquarium, we were able to generate greater awareness about turtle conservation.”
The project accepts any distressed turtle, but the most common turtles found in the Arabian Gulf are the critically endangered hawksbill and the endangered green sea turtle. The majority of rescued turtles are juvenile hawksbills, which are found washed up on the Gulf coastline during the winter months of December, January and February suffering from the adverse effects of cold sea temperatures. Other common aliments include ingesting plastic rubbish and injuries sustained from boats.
Sea turtles live in oceans throughout the world and spend their entire lives at sea – only coming onto shore if they are injured or ready to nest. Adult females nest and lay eggs often on tropical and subtropical beaches every 2-5 years. Both green turtles and hawksbills nest in the UAE, along the coast and on offshore islands. Guests at Jumeirah Dhevanafushi in the Maldives were fortunate to witness this rare phenomenon earlier in the year. A green turtle was spotted on the resort and nested near to the beach bungalows. After about sixty days, the baby sea turtles, known as hatchlings, were seen making their way into the Indian Ocean.
Based at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and Madinat Jumeirah, the DTRP is run in collaboration with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office, with essential veterinary support provided by the Dubai Falcon Hospital and the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. The day-to-day running of the project and the animal husbandry is managed by Burj Al Arab’s dedicated aquarium team.