The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi (TNA) will soon launch ‘Turtle 1000’, a project that will see 1,000 rescued sea turtles returned to the ocean.
Since its inception in 2020, the EAD-TNA Wildlife Rescue Program, to safeguard native wildlife, has thrived particularly when it comes to sea turtles, that were made a focused priority.
When the rehabilitated marine reptiles are released into the wild this summer, one lucky turtle, named ‘Turtle 1000’ will have their movements across the Arabian Gulf tracked using a satellite tag, with weekly updates on its whereabouts shared via the TNA website and socials.
Paul Robert Hamilton, General Manager of The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi, said: ‘The rehabilitation and eventual release of 1,000 turtles is a testament to the success and dedication of both TNA and The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi working together for the past four years on securing the future of these important creatures.
This milestone will not only reinforce the immense value of the Wildlife Rescue Program, but will also highlight the importance of reintroducing endangered species into their natural habitats as vital to the remaining populations.’
UAE Turtle Troubles
Several species of sea turtles can be found off the coast of the UAE including the endangered green sea turtle and loggerhead, and the critically endangered hawksbill. These sea turtles are crucial to a healthy marine ecosystem.
But they all face a myriad of threats, including habitat degradation from coastal developments, pollution from plastic debris, becoming by-catch of the fishing industry and climate changes altering nesting beaches and prey availability. Artificial lighting on beaches also disorients hatchlings.
Conservation efforts across the UAE include habitat preservation, pollution reduction, sustainable fisheries management, public awareness campaigns, and law enforcement to safeguard these iconic marine species and their critical habitats across the emirates.
For the occasion of ‘Turtle 1000’, Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said: ‘As part of the newly announced extension of the Year of Sustainability into 2024, we are thrilled to have rescued 1,000 turtles in partnership with The National Aquarium, reinforcing Abu Dhabi’s position as a leader in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of flagship species in the emirate.
‘With our years of experience in conservation, we are always striving to provide the most advanced care to our turtles so that they thrive in abundance until we release them back into their natural habitats. This ensures their numbers are stable and are thriving within the emirate’s waters reinforcing our vision for a sustainable future so that future generations live with plentiful numbers of marine species.’
The Wildlife Rescue Program’s ongoing success relies heavily on public support. Hamilton urged individuals encountering defenceless turtles to contact the Wildlife Rescue Program helpline (800 555), urging participation in preserving the planet’s ecosystem.