On June 16th, Burj Al Arab kindly provided a satellite transmitter for a 35kg rehabilitated green turtle so that we could track her journey and to help with our research of the movements of turtles within the Arabian Gulf. This is the Dubai Rehabilitation Project’s fourth satellite tag application and all of our tags so far have been sponsored by Jumeirah Group. Moonlight was the name given to the turtle and she was released on June 8th along with another green turtle weighing 110kg, called ‘Sabri’ (which means endurance in Arabic), and 23 critically endangered juvenile hawksbill turtles that had all been through rehabilitation at the Project.
All of the turtles were released with left and right individually numbered titanium flipper tags with the name and address of the Dubai Wildlife Protection Office. During this release our landmark 100th flipper tagged turtle was released bringing the total number of animals released back into the wild so far to 110. All released turtles that pass through the hands of Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project are also micro-chipped with AVID tags in the left front flipper; we use this form of marking to keep track in-house and assist with medical and growth records.
Moonlight was named by a class in Year 6 of Dubai English Speaking School who were the winners of Jumeirah’s ‘name the turtle competition’. We consider the information that Moonlight will provide very important as most other tracking studies are performed on post-nesting females. Moonlight belongs to a different age-cohort, being a sub-adult green turtle of undetermined sex, and so he/she may highlight areas of importance or make a journey that may differ from the usual tracking data. At the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project we have the opportunity to track turtles not just of breeding age or single sex, but of many different age cohorts, which allows us to build a fuller picture of their usage of the oceans.
Another turtle released by the DTRP was Jade. Released in November 2009 along with 15 rehabilitated juvenile hawksbills, Jade initially travelled some distance in a North Easterly direction, and left Dubai waters for the neighboring Emirate. Now, well into the expected life-span of the transmitter battery pack, Jade has spent the majority of her time in the Jebel Ali area of the Dubai coastline. Although less dramatic a journey than our previous ocean traveler, Dibba, the very fact that she chose to linger in the Jebel Ali area is of interest. Extraordinarily, this is the exact location that she was retrieved from in a highly debilitated state, when she was first brought into the project. Historically this area has long been associated with turtle sightings and even as a possible dugong grazing area. Jonathan Ali Khan and Dr Bernard Reigel both highlighted this area in the late ’80s early 90’s as an important sea-grass habitat, and at that time possible dugong grazing tracks were recorded in the area; it was subsequently declared a marine reserve. Perhaps Jade’s choice of abode goes to reinforce the importance of this area to turtles in the region.
The most recent data indicates a shift once again in Jade’s position. She is on the move northwards and has taken residence in the coastal waters of Iran. Could she be heading to nesting beaches? Has the recent seasonal increase in coastal water temperature caused her to seek deeper waters? Will she continue through the Straight of Hormuz and into the Gulf of Oman? The journey continues…
If you would like to see more pictures of the most recent release and how Moonlight was tagged, or to interact with us at the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project then please visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/turtle.rehabilitation or at our website www.dubaiturtles.com. You can follow all of our tagged turtles at http://www.seaturtle.org/tracking/index.shtml?project_id=55