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44 turtles released to celebrate 44th UAE National Day

Crowds gather to see the release of 44 turtles on a Dubai beach as part of National Day celebrations / The National

A group of rare sea turtles rescued from the Gulf coastline were released to mark the 44th National Day.

The 44 critically endangered hawksbill and the endangered green sea turtles were sent back into the Arabian Gulf at Madinat Jumeirah’s private beach, by the Burj Al Arab. It was part of a conservation programme by the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) in partnership with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office.

The juvenile turtles were rescued from the shores of the UAE and nursed back to health by the DTRP, which is one of the longest-standing corporate social responsibility initiatives in the region. It is the only project of its kind in the Middle East and at the forefront of sea turtle rehabilitation protocols and veterinary procedures.

Since the project began in 2004, 844 turtles have been released back into their natural habitat after they had been found washed up on the coastline during the cooler months suffering from the adverse effects of cold sea temperatures.

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

Warren Baverstock, Burj Al Arab’s aquarium operations manager, said: “We were very proud to celebrate National Day by releasing 44 rehabilitated sea turtles back into their environment.

“The project accepts any distressed turtle but the most common turtles found in the Arabian Gulf are the critically endangered hawksbill and the endangered green sea turtle. The majority of rescued turtles are juvenile hawksbills.

“We would like to thank the local community, the Tourism Development and Investment Company and the Emirates Marine Environmental Group who brought many of the injured turtles to us.”

Veterinary support during the release project was provided by the Dubai Falcon Hospital and the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory. The day-to-day running of the project and the animal husbandry is managed by Burj Al Arab’s dedicated aquarium team.

Emirati students from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management were invited to help with the project and watch the turtles making their way back into the Gulf.

Hawksbill turtles live in the open ocean but spend much of their time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs.

They have become threatened by human fishing practices, as hawksbill shells were once the primary source of tortoiseshell material used in jewellery and ornaments.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outlaws the capture and trade of hawksbill turtles and products derived from them.

Green turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. They are threatened by over-harvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.

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