x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Endangered hawksbill turtle rescued by lifeguard on Saadiyat Beach

Turtle was washed ashore three weeks ago by strong waves whipped up by last month's blustery winds, bringing to 20 the number sighted there this winter.

Millie Plowman (left), environmental director at TDIC, and Clare Patterson, recreation manager at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club, Saadiyat.
Millie Plowman (left), environmental director at TDIC, and Clare Patterson, recreation manager at the Monte-Carlo Beach Club, Saadiyat.

ABU DHABI // An endangered hawksbill turtle has been rescued by a lifeguard after being washed up on the shores of Saadiyat Island's Monte Carlo Beach Club.

It was washed ashore three weeks ago by strong waves whipped up by last month's blustery winds.

The migratory reptile is usually found in tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Last year, more than 600 turtles were born on Bu Tinah Island in Abu Dhabi.

It has been listed as critically endangered since 1996 on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, a database that aims at the conservation of threatened species. The hawksbill's population declined by 80 per cent during the last century.

When Viktor Bondarchuk, a lifeguard at the club, discovered the turtle - a juvenile born last summer - he contacted Clare Patterson, the club's recreation manager and resident environmentalist, for help.

She immediately placed the turtle, named Vik Bond after its rescuer, in a bucket of water being handing it over to experts from the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) of Abu Dhabi. "It's the least we can do to save these endangered species," said Ms Patterson who has been at the club for a month.

The hawksbill is now recovering at the turtle rehabilitation centre at Dubai's Burj Al Arab. It will be released back to sea later this year.

It was one of 20 seen on Saadiyat Beach over the winter months - a big increase on the three seen in the same period last year.

"In my experience, this phenomenon happens when it's very windy, especially at this time of the year," said Ms Patterson.

Because the turtles are dormant, they remain very still on their back. "So they get taken up from the bottom of the sea and get stuck in the waves," added Ms Patterson.

A second young turtle was found a few days later found by a security guard on the same area of the beach and handed over to the TDIC.

The club has now started a Turtle Track to keep a record of the dates and times that turtles are discovered in the future. Members of the children's Turtle Club will be given the chance to name them.

Millie Plowman, TDIC's environment manager, said the increase in the number of turtles found on the UAE's coasts this year might be down to the cooler weather.

cmalek@thenational.ae