Twenty-five turtles were released into the sea on Friday as part of events to mark World Environment Day on Sunday.
A huge crowd gathered at the Jebel Ali Marine Sanctuary in the Ghantoot Reserve on Friday morning to witness the release of the 25 rescued Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricate) into the sea after a rehabilitation programme of around four months that nursed them back to full health.
Hawksbills, as the name implies, have a narrow, pointed beak like that of a hawk. Their shells have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales that form a serrated-look on the edges.
This critically endangered marine animal helps maintain the health of coral reefs. Hawkbills keep the reef’s surface clear of sponges and other outgrowth, providing better access for the reef fish to feed.
Ali Saqar Sultan Al Suwaidi, head of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group, said the survival rate of these sea turtles once released back into the wild is 100 per cent compared to releasing newly-hatched baby turtles.
He said the released turtles will return to the beach after around 20 years to nest there and help repopulate the Gulf.
Many female sea turtles nest every year at the reserve.
Sea turtles eggs hatch mostly in summer. This year saw the biggest number of nests, 40 exactly, of which 12 have been translocated for education programmes.
Some 86 baby turtles were released into the sea in Dubai a week ago in front of children to teach them about the importance of marine conservation.
“Our grandfathers allowed us to see these turtles. Our children should have the chance to see them, too,” Al Suwaidi said.
After the turtles were released into their natural habitat, volunteers participated in a beach clean-up and mangrove planting initiative within the reserve.
Anne Romans, from Dubai College, lauded Emirates Marine Environmental Group for taking care of the rescued turtles. She said such activities should continue to ensure that marine species needing care and concern are protected.
“These are Hawksbill turtles, they’re not just ordinary turtles. They come here to nest,” Romans said. “We live in a concrete jungle. It’s also nice to come out to see something natural and hopefully sustainable.”