x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Turtle power: endangered species complete trek from UAE to Oman

Turtles were tagged during their travels from Abu Dhabi in bid to understand their breeding habits

The Environment Agency has followed the impressive progress of Green turtles, Wisdom and Respect. Courtesy EAD
The Environment Agency has followed the impressive progress of Green turtles, Wisdom and Respect. Courtesy EAD

Two green turtles, tagged in an Abu Dhabi conservation project, have swum to Oman and provided invaluable data to scientists who are trying to protect the endangered species.

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) satellite-tagged four green turtles then released them off Bu Tinah Island, an internationally recognised sanctuary for turtles in Abu Dhabi waters, in April in a bid to discover ways in which to protect their numbers.

The EAD tracked theturtles and data showed that two of them - named Wisdom and Respect in honour of the Year of Zayed - left the island four to six weeks later.

Wisdom left first, followed 30 days later by Respect.

They followed the coast towards the Straight of Hormuz and reached Ras Al Hadd in Oman 1,100 kilometres away a few weeks later.

Each turtle took about 30 days to reach the remote beach, meaning they covered about 36km per day, swimming at a speed of 1.5kph on average, according to the data collected by the satellite tags.

They are currently in Ras Al Hadd, which is two and a half hours' drive from Muscat, with other Green turtles.

Scientists believe they may be preparing to lay eggs.

“This finding is yet another conservation success that we can celebrate in the Year of Zayed,” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD.

It is also a first for science in the region, she said, and showed that in order to protect turtles, groups such as EAD had to work at a regional level to protect their habitats, nesting sites and migratory routes.

The long journey made from the UAE to Oman by turtles, Respect and Wisdom
The long journey made from the UAE to Oman by turtles, Respect and Wisdom

“We will share these findings with neighbouring countries and continue to protect these key elements of sea turtle survival across their range,” said Ms Al Mubarak.

She said it was symbolic that the finding occurred during the Year of Zayed, as Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the UAE, was considered to be one of the world’s great conservationists.

“The marine environment, in particular, held an emotional value to him. He considered it a treasured part of our heritage, our present and our future,” said Ms Al Mubarak.

EAD stopped receiving signals from the transmitters attached to the other two turtles “sometime” after they left Bu Tinah, said a spokeswoman for the agency.

_______________

Read more:

Endangered turtles released off Abu Dhabi's Bu Tinah island

Abu Dhabi hotels turn down dazzling lights as fears grow for turtles

Preparations under way for endangered sea turtles’ return to Saadiyat

UAE’s fragile reefs will be under more strain by climate change: report

_______________

There are seven species of marine turtles worldwide and two can be found in Abu Dhabi’s waters – the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle and the endangered Green turtle.

The Bu Tinah archipelago has been under the protection of the UN Environment Programme’s Indian Ocean – South-East Asian Turtle pact since 2016, when the UN recognised the shallows as among the most important sanctuaries for turtles in the Indian Ocean.

The island, located in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region, is also home to many species including coral reefs, dugongs, natural mangroves, dolphins, ospreys and Socotra cormorants.

It is one of the 19 protected areas under the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network and gained renown in 2011 after being shortlisted in a global competition entitled the "New Seven Wonders of Nature".

Ras Al Hadd – where the turtles currently are - and the nearby Ras Al Jinz beaches are well known breeding grounds for green turtles.