Abu Dhabi to begin sea turtle rehabilitation programme at National Aquarium

Once it opens, the aquarium will work with the environment agency to protect threatened species such as hawksbill and green turtles

A hawksbill turtle. Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and The National Aquarium will launch a turtle rehabilitation programme. Jaime Puebla / The National
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A turtle rehabilitation programme will be established at the National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi by the emirate’s environment agency.

The programme, managed by Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, will launch once the National Aquarium opens in the capital's Al Qana development and will last at least five years.

“Having such facilities within the confines of Abu Dhabi will assist our continuous efforts to preserve wildlife in the emirate,” said Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri, the agency’s secretary general.

“By collaborating with the National Aquarium, we will be able to rehabilitate various wildlife species before releasing them into their natural habitats, while expanding our scientific studies.”

The aquarium will support the agency’s satellite tagging programme, its research studies and data collection, offer internships for biology and veterinary students, and promote educational experiences.

Its conservation programmes will focus on the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the endangered green turtle. The agency’s conservation work has stabilised the two species' local population.

“As far back as 2001, we have been working on conserving turtles in Abu Dhabi waters,” said Dr Al Dhaheri. “Now, the overall foraging sea turtle populations, namely hawksbill and green turtles, have been relatively stable over the last decade. Based on data from aerial surveys, we have more than 5,000 wild sea turtles in our waters.”

The National Aquarium will provide veterinary support and in-house care to injured marine animals until they can be released into the wild.

“Our daily lives have become disconnected from the natural world and while we are slowly realising the impact that humans are having on the environment, there is still a long way to go to address these issues,” said Paul Hamilton, the aquarium’s general manager.

“That is why it is so important to reach new audiences and educate future generations about the importance of protecting and rehabilitating our wildlife and ecosystems.”

Wild turtles are among the most highly migratory animals on the planet and their populations are a great reflection of the condition of marine environments. Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, two occur in Abu Dhabi's waters: the critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the endangered green turtle.

The National Aquarium was scheduled to open this year in the entertaining and dining development of Al Qana, on Al Maqta creek.

The aquarium, which spans more than 7,000 square metres, will be home to 33,000 marine creatures that will be cared for by a team of 80 sea-life experts and specialists. As well as focusing on local marine life of the UAE and Arabian Gulf, the aquarium will also feature species from as far as the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Organisers said the animals will be responsibly and ethically sourced from around the world.

Al Qana development: