“Through our partnership with the aquarium, we have been able to rescue and rehabilitate a number of turtles to ensure the longevity of several different turtle species found in Abu Dhabi waters. Moreover, after releasing a large majority of these turtles into their natural habitat, our specialized research team regularly monitors them and frequently studies their behavior and habits,” said Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity at the EAD.
“As part of our efforts, we are very pleased to include the rehabilitation of an olive ridley sea turtle, a species rarely seen in UAE waters. It is a sign of the abundance of our biodiversity, which we aspire to conserve so that future generations can enjoy it for decades to come,” he added.
Due to the growing number of turtles that continue to wash up in Abu Dhabi waters every year, EAD is now stepping up its efforts to further protect and conserve native wildlife. It has now added more manpower and is investing in the construction of state-of-the-art facilities, reinforcing the commitment to provide more effective and efficient rehabilitation for rescued local wildlife, especially sea turtles.
According to the EAD, around 300 turtles are found stranded on the shores of the emirate every year because they are stunned by the cold during the coldest months. This is a normal hypothermic reaction experienced by marine reptiles when exposed to cold waters for prolonged periods. Cooler temperatures cause them to slow down their bodily processes and make them weak and inactive. They can therefore run aground and find their shells infested with barnacles, which further inhibits their movement.
After cold stunning, there is usually only a short period of time in which sea turtles can be safely rescued and this requires marine expertise. The EAD therefore regularly issues alerts at the start of winter, encouraging local residents to report stranded turtles.
“Sea turtles are among the most migratory animals on the planet, and two of the world’s seven species of sea turtles frequent Abu Dhabi waters – the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the endangered green turtle. of disappearance. With over 5,000 sea turtles residing in Abu Dhabi and a large number of turtles arriving every year, we want to continue to provide the best possible care for these animals,” said Beatriz Maquieira, Curator at the National Aquarium.
In 2020, EAD signed an agreement with the aquarium to launch the Wildlife Rescue Program, a mission dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of native wildlife in Abu Dhabi. The program has led to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of several species of turtles in the Persian Gulf, including rarely seen loggerhead turtles, and the ongoing and successful rehabilitation process of their most recent rescue, a turtle olive ridley, the second smallest of all sea turtles found in the world.
Last year, a total of 250 sea turtles were rescued and rehabilitated, and 150 were released back into the ocean. Three of the released turtles were also satellite tagged to enable monitoring of turtle activity and health. Other release events took place last summer.
The current group of 200 rescued turtles will soon be released into the Persian Gulf, the EAD said.