Mature hawksbill turtles have returned to nest on the beaches of a remote UAE island.
Biologists at the Sir Bu Nair Marine Research Centre of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority identified 63 nests on Sir Bu Nair Island.
The Sharjah-governed island is 65 kilometres off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
Though small, at only 4km across, it is one of the most important hawksbill nesting sites in the Arabian Gulf.
The nesting season begins in March and continues until June, with a female turtle laying between 90 to 110 eggs at a time.
Hawksbill turtles are critical to the health of coral reefs because they eat algae and sponges, which compete with coral for space.
Globally, the hawksbill population has dropped by 80 per cent over the past three generations due to issues such as habitat destruction, coastal development and pollution.
The hawksbill turtle is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.
As well as the turtles, the tear-shaped island is home to colonies of lesser crested terns, greater crested terns, red-billed tropicbirds and Socotra cormorants.
Sir Bu Nair was once an important camp for pearl divers.
It was used as a military base during the First Gulf War.
The island was designated a protected area by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, in 2000.
A three-year conservation project between the Environment and Protected Areas Authority, the Emirates Marine Environmental Group and Emirates Nature-WWF was launched in January last year.