x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Balancing act needed to help turtles

The hawksbill sea turtle needs help if it is to survive in its natural habitat.

Turtles are released in Dubai.

Courtesy Jumeirah
Turtles are released in Dubai. Courtesy Jumeirah

On Monday, which was designated World Sea Turtle Day, 110 hawksbill turtle hatchlings were released into the sea under the auspices of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project. The species, which is native to the Arabian Gulf, is ­regarded as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of ­Nature, and such releases supplement natural hatchings at places including Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island and Sharjah’s Khor Kalba mangroves.

The life of a baby turtle is perilous. They receive no parental care and are particularly vulnerable to predators as they scramble down the beach and swim through shallow waters. Moreover, the females take up to 35 years to mature to the point where they can lay their own eggs.

The front page photograph of yesterday’s edition of The National was instructive. The juxtaposition of the tiny turtles scrambling to the sea with dozens of onlookers to one side and the Burj Al Arab looming in the background serves as a reminder that this place is shared between ­native wildlife, humans and the built environment.

Maintaining a delicate balance between development and conservation is essential to the future of the UAE, for both humans and turtles.