Nestled within Madinat Jumeirah’s Mina A’ Salam, turtles can be seen contently paddling in the resort’s aquamarine waters. Shortly, these placid reptiles will be swapping resort life for the great outdoors when they are returned to the wild. Established in 2004, the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project is run in conjunction with the Wildlife Protection Office and the Burj Al Arab Aquarium. The group aim to rehabilitate turtles in their natural habitat, while at the same time raising awareness of the species’ plight. All the turtles at the sanctuary have been rescued from the waters of the UAE, having been injured or fallen sick. Within their care are the Green and critically endangered Hawksbill species of turtles, both of which are commonly found in the Arabian Gulf. Injured or sick turtles are initially taken to a partnering local veterinary clinic to receive primary treatment, before being moved to the Burj Al Arab Aquarium, where their recovery is monitored closely. Once the team is satisfied with their progress, the turtles are then relocated to the Mina A’Salam turtle enclosure for the remainder of their recuperation.
There are various reasons why turtles require treatment. Some become entangled or ingest plastic bags and cigarette butts, while others have been injured by boats and jet skis. Turtles can also get sick due to a significant amount of barnacle growth on their shells. Relying on gaining body heat from their surrounding environment, the reptiles are also more vulnerable during the cooler months, when the ocean’s temperature dips. The length of time the turtles remain at the enclosure very much depends on the extent of their injuries or type of illness, but most stay on average for a year. Anyone can come and visit the Mina A’ Salam’s turtle sanctuary, and during Friday brunch at Al Muna and Zheng He’s, diners are treated to a feeding at 1pm. Similarly, a feeding takes place at 1pm on Wednesday’s for children and parents staying within the resort. Once the turtles are fully recovered, they are released into the wild, but are first fitted with satellite transmitters to allow the project’s team to track their journey and collect data on migration patterns. With the help of the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, these turtles now have a future – and hopefully their species as a whole will too.