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Sending the turtles back to their home

posted on 19/06/2016: 2084 views



Young students from the Dubai British School and some in-house guests of Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Hotel released at least 100 rehabilitated turtles back into the Arabian Gulf to celebrate World Sea Turtle Day on Thursday.

"We're happy to send them back to their natural home," classmates Jessica Hewitt and Isabelle Foster told Khaleej Times, as 96 critically endangered juvenile hawksbills, one juvenile loggerhead, two juvenile greens and one large adult loggerhead slowly plodded through the sand back to the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Six turtles were fitted with small satellite tags - including Beau, name given by the young eco warriors to the adult male loggerhead whose right flipper was injured by a fishing net; Cousteau, a juvenile loggerhead; Alpha and Angelo, both juvenile greens; Ali and Pawee, both juvenile hawksbills - to collect valuable data about their progress in the wild.

The release of the turtles, rehabilitated at facilities within Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and Madinat Jumeirah as part of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP), brings the total number of turtles returned to the wild since the project began in 2004 to 1,090.

The turtles were all rescued from the shores of the UAE and nursed back to health by DTRP. Majority of rescued turtles are juvenile hawksbills found washed up on the Gulf coastline during the winter months due to adverse effects of cold sea temperatures while others ingested plastic rubbish and sustained injuries from boats and fish nets.

"We are especially grateful to the local community and organisations who found many of the injured turtles and brought them to us for rehabilitation," said Warren Baverstock, Burj Al Arab's Aquarium Operations Manager. "To our knowledge, this is the first time juvenile loggerheads and greens have been tagged in the region which will provide valuable data about their progress in the wild."

Kevin Hyland from the Wildlife Protection Office told Khaleej Times: "We've tagged the turtles to see if the rehabilitation process is successful. Tagging turtles is time-consuming and quite expensive but the data we've gathered in the past 10 years revealed that the turtles integrated very well back into their natural environment."

"Other objectives of tagging are to identify the turtle hotspots and their feeding areas within the Gulf. We also learn turtle concentration and any seasonal movements when turtles select the most optimal areas such as when the water warms up near 20 degrees during summer," added Hyland.

The tags also allow the conservation team to compare habitat, temperature choice and migration patterns for each species.

For the young students, preserving wildlife means keeping the environment clean and safe for turtles. "Whenever I'm at the beach, I will put my rubbish in the bin so the turtles will not eat them," said four-year old Isabelle. – Khaleej Times - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/sending-the-turtles-back-to-their-homes

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