x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Rare turtles home on Bu Tinah

At least five new nesting sites for endangered hawksbill turtles have been recorded by researchers on the white banks of Bu Tinah Island.

A hawksbill turtle nests on the banks of Bu Tinah Island.
A hawksbill turtle nests on the banks of Bu Tinah Island.

ABU DHABI // At least five new nesting sites for endangered hawksbill turtles were recorded by researchers with the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) last week on the white banks of Bu Tinah Island, 130km west of the capital.

The tiny, protected archipelago, which is part of a core area of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, is one of 28 finalists in a contest to name seven of the world's natural wonders. Abu Dhabi plans to spend Dh28 million (US$7.6m) to promote Bu Tinah, which the EAD described as an ecological "miracle". "This island has managed to attract so much flora and fauna - you're talking about flamingos, ospreys, soccotra cormorants, dolphins, dugongs - all calling Bu Tinah home," the agency's spokeswoman, Laila al Hassan, told Inside The National.

Despite high temperatures and the salinity of the island's waters, the site is remarkable for its thriving ecosystem, she said. The island remains a haven for wildlife and is closed to the public in order to protect the marine environment. It is a roosting site for some 20,000 birds. "They've made it their home and the birds are wintering there. The hawksbill turtles just started nesting there last week and our experts just recorded five nests," Ms Hassan said.

The international contest to name the seven natural wonders of the world pits Bu Tinah against well-known landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and the Dead Sea. The final seven locations will be decided in November next year. The EAD is urging residents to cast their votes before then. "We're sending a message out to the world that our region is not just about oil; it isn't just about rapid development," Ms Hassan said. "We take conservation very seriously, and we've managed to protect Bu Tinah Island as part of this biosphere reserve for so long."

People can vote multiple times via SMS by texting the word "Bu Tinah" to 3888, or they can vote on the website www.butinah.ae "You say you love the island, you say you love the UAE this is your chance to really show it," Ms Hassan said. mkwong@thenational.ae