New batch of turtles released at Jebel Ali

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 11 July 2020: In cooperation with Burj Al Arab Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the Emirates Marine Environmental Group, Dubai Municipality has released a batch of seven green turtles and 11 hawksbill turtles.

This brings to 52 the number of turtles released recently, following their hatching at the Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary. The release was attended by Dawoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Ali Saqr Al Suwaidi, President of EMEG and municipality officials.

Green turtles, whose scientific name is Chelonia mydas, are classified as Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, while hawksbill turtles, Eretmochelys imbricata, are classified as Critically Endangered.

The Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary is the only nesting area on the Arabian Gulf coastline where the two species are known to nest. Other nesting beaches are all on offshore islands.

Since sea turtles are considered an indicator of health of the marine ecosystem, Dubai Municipality monitors the beaches during the nesting season. It has also introduced a satellite-tracking programme, collecting knowledge on migration paths, patterns of movement throughout the year and feeding areas of the turtles. This has allowed the development of strategies to protect the species in cooperation with other parties at regional and local levels. Local legislation has been prepared to improve the chances of survival of young turtles, and new areas have been proposed for protection, said Wam.

So far this year, a total of 41 nests have been located in the reserve, compared to a total of over 50 nests in previous years. Once the turtles have laid their eggs, their nests are protected, to guard against predation by foxes and seabirds.

The Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 77 square kilometres and was formally designated as a protected area under Local Order No. 2 in 1998. In 2018, it was included on the international list of important wetland reserves under the Ramsar Convention, meeting the requirements for classification among “Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas.” It also contain key habitats, such as coral reefs, mangroves and coastal lagoons.

Nearly 540 different species of marine flora and fauna have been recorded in the reserve, including 34 species of corals. Some are endemic species, not known anywhere else in the world outside the southern Gulf, and around 40 per cent are considered to be endangered.

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