Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 September 2019

First baby turtles of the season hatch at Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat beach

More than 70 critically-endangered hawksbill hatchlings made their way into the sea

Dozens of baby sea turtles have made their way safely into the sea after hatching in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.

The hawksbill turtles, which are critically endangered, were the first hatchlings to emerge on Saadiyat beach this season. They came from one of half a dozen nests that have been protected by beach patrol volunteers this year.

The nest contained a total of 86 eggs, of which 78 survived, seven failed to hatch and one died.

Emily Armstrong, a marine conservationist working for Jumeirah Saadiyat Island resort who leads daily volunteer patrols on the beach, said she was very happy with the number of healthy turtles that emerged.

A baby hawksbill turtle makes its way into the sea at Saadiyat beach. Insun Woo/NYUAD
A baby hawksbill turtle makes its way into the sea at Saadiyat beach. Insun Woo/NYUAD

"It has been an extraordinary year for nesting turtles at Saadiyat beach, with six nests located and protected so far," Ms Armstrong said.

"We are so happy that the first nest has hatched successfully and so many hatchlings made it safely to the sea. We wish them all the best on their journey and we hope the remaining nests prove just as fruitful."

Turtle eggs take about 60 days to hatch, with nests laid earlier in the season sometimes taking a little longer to incubate.

Turtle patrol volunteer Alison Koutroulias said seeing the turtles hatch was something she would remember for the rest of her life.

"I feel so fortunate that I was able to be a part of something that is truly trying to conserve and protect the animals that call Abu Dhabi home," she said.

"This experience has really inspired me to do more to help preserve our environment."

Staff and students from nearby NYU Abu Dhabi are also involved with the project.

Suparna Mathur, head of community outreach at NYU Abu Dhabi, said: "Through the turtle patrol, our students staff and faculty volunteers have helped rescue washed up turtles, spotted and protected a turtle nest, and now watched the first hatchlings make their way to the ocean.

"I hope these experiences and stories will help more residents in the UAE think critically about their impact on the environment and influence change within their own communities."

Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened species.

Sea turtles face multiple threats including poaching, loss of habitat and nesting grounds, climate change, and entanglement in fishing nets. In recent years they have also faced the growing menace of marine plastics, which they can mistake for food and ingest.

The writer is a Saadiyat beach patrol volunteer

Updated: June 2, 2019 05:32 PM

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