Endangered Hawksbill turtles hatch on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island

The hatchlings, the first on the island this year, emerged from a nest between near the Monte-Carlo Beach Club and were spotted by security guards at the Saadiyat Public Beach.

One of the Hawksbill turtle hatchlings is helped by a member of the environmental services team at the TDIC to reach the sea. It was the first successful hatching of a nest on Saadiyat island this year. Courtesy TDIC
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Forty hawksbill turtles have hatched on Saadiyat Island.
The hatchlings are the first on the island this year and emerged from a nest near the Monte Carlo Beach Club. They were spotted by security guards at Saadiyat Public Beach.
Employees at the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the island's master developer, guided some of the hatchlings to the water as the nest was farther than usual from the shore.
"We are very excited that the eggs, which are from this season's first batch, have hatched safely," said Dr Nathalie Staelens, head of environmental services at TDIC.
"After being alerted by security guards at Saadiyat Public Beach, we observed them and helped guide some hatchlings safely to the sea."
Hawksbill turtles, which breed in the Arabian Gulf, are considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
They live among coral reefs where they feeds on sea sponges and jellyfish and need undisturbed beaches where they can lay their eggs.
Hatchlings need to head straight to the water and spend the first 24 hours of their lives floating in ocean currents, swimming into deeper waters where there are fewer predators.
Hawksbill turtles take about 35 years to sexually mature, making it hard for conservationists to spot whether a population is in serious decline.
Habitat destruction is also a threat, particularly because pregnant females return to the beach where they were born to lay eggs.
Hatchlings can be disturbed by the presence of buildings with strong lights near their nests. The lights disorient the hatchlings causing them to head inland rather than out to sea.
TDIC has taken measures to ensure Saadiyat remains safe for nesting turtles. Development along the beach is restricted within 60 metres of the seaward edge of the coastal dunes, creating a buffer zone between construction and the beach.
Pedestrians are also encouraged to use elevated promenades to reach the beach, preventing them from walking among the coastal dunes and disturbing nests.
Since 2010, TDIC has recorded the successful hatchings of about 650 turtles on Saadiyat Island.
vtodorova@thenational.ae