x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Exhausted by a coat of many creatures

Some of the rescued turtles have been injured by fishing nets or rubbish at sea, damaging their fins.

A tagged turtle is ready to be released.
A tagged turtle is ready to be released.

DUBAI // Some of the rescued turtles have been injured by fishing nets or rubbish at sea, damaging their fins. Others appear to have been deliberately attacked by people; one that was released earlier in the year had been brought in with a hole in its head, an injury that appeared to have been caused by a blow from a club. The majority, however, are juvenile turtles found during the spring, covered in algae and looking underfed and lethargic, which is put down to a phenomenon known as "cold stunning".

"When the sea gets cold during the winter their metabolism drops - they are not very good at regulating their own temperature and so they become sluggish and slow," said Kevin Hyland, from the Wildlife Protection Office. "They start to get covered in fouling organisms - oysters, barnacles, algae and so on, and the problem snowballs. "When they have a lot of this stuff on them it makes it even harder for them to move, they get more and more inactive and they are so inhibited that they can't get down to the bottom to fed easily."

He said more turtles suffering from this condition were being found, but there had not been enough research to tell if the problem was on the increase. "We are definitely receiving more turtles, but that could be because more people are handing them in. "The number of people using Dubai's beaches has increased enormously, so obviously there is a greater chance of someone finding a turtle that might previously have gone unnoticed.

"This problem is not uncommon elsewhere in the world. I don't remember it happening as much in previous years, but we can't say if it is getting more common - there could just be more getting rescued." Anyone finding a sick or injured turtle can call Warren Baverstock at the Burj al Arab Aquarium on 04 301 7198. gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae