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Dubai school pupils return 70 rehabilitated turtles to the sea

DUBAI // A rare olive ridley sea turtle named Barnacle is the latest to be returned to the Arabian Gulf after rescue and recovery at Jumeirah’s Al Naseem rehabilitation lagoon.

Children from the Dubai British School bought a satellite tag for Barnacle that will enable them to track her progress online. The children were invited to the release to learn more about the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project and wave the turtles off from the beach by Jumeirah Al Naseem.

Since the project started in 2004, it has returned 1,175 to the open seas, with Barnacle the latest to be tagged and released to monitor her recovery, along with 70 critically endangered hawksbill turtles.

Marine biologist and aquarium operations manager Warren Baverstock heads a team of six, who work to rescue and rehabilitate injured and sick turtles, mainly hawksbills, greens and loggerheads.

"There are very few olive ridleys nesting in Arabia and all of them nest on Masirah Island in Oman," he said.

"This is the first time an olive ridley has been tagged in the UAE, and we are all very excited to discover where she will travel to next.

"This initiative provides valuable data about how the turtles are progressing in the wild. We are especially gratefully to the local community and the organisations who found many of the injured turtles and brought them to us for rehabilitation."

All the turtles recovering there have been rescued from the shores of the UAE by members of the public and nursed back to health by the rehabilitation project, one of the longest-standing corporate social responsibility initiatives in the region and the only project of its kind in the Middle East.

All the turtles started their rehabilitation at the facilities at the Burj Al Arab, before moving to the lagoon at Jumeirah Al Naseem prior to release.

The project accepts any distressed turtle, with the most common turtles found in the Arabian Gulf being the hawksbill and the endangered green sea turtle.

The majority are juvenile hawksbills found washed up on the coast during the winter months of December, January and February are suffering from the adverse effects of cold sea temperatures.

Other common aliments include ingesting plastic rubbish and injuries sustained from boats.

The creatures are carefully monitored in the purpose-built lagoon before they are returned to their native waters.

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