Conservation the focus of World Turtle Day

Protection of nesting sites crucial to future survival of hawksbill turtles in the UAE

Powered by automated translation

Education on how to protect turtles and their habitats across the country is the focus of World Turtle Day on Saturday.

The annual event has supported worldwide conservation of turtles and tortoise since 2000, with Al Ain Zoo playing its part in education programmes for visitors.

The safari park has 10 varieties of the reptiles, including the Aldabra giant, red ear slider and Indian star tortoise.

It also has 35 of the African stirred tortoise, the third largest species on the planet and the largest mainland tortoise.

The species is native to Saharan Africa and was recently added to a purpose built enclosure at the zoo that replicates their natural habitat in the wild.

The animals can live for up to 70 years and have been recorded to weigh a hefty 105 kilogrammes.

World Turtle Day is celebrated in a variety of ways across the globe and is sponsored by the American Tortoise Rescue foundation.

The UAE plays its part each year by releasing rescued sea turtles back into the Arabian Gulf usually after an extensive rehabilitation period.

In 2019, some 65 turtles were released back into the ocean following a joint project between the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project and the Jumeirah Group.

Similar projects take place in Abu Dhabi, where Hawksbill turtles often wash up injured or sick after collecting barnacles and other parasites on their shells.

Excessive barnacle cover can be a sign of general bad health of a turtle which can be debilitating.

Saadiyat Beach has become the capital’s turtle hotspot, as mature female hawksbill turtles return each year to lay eggs between Mach and June.

The site is one of 17 nesting areas across the emirate.

Listed as critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), these areas have become important conservation areas to help preserve the future of the species.