Preparations under way for endangered sea turtles’ return to Saadiyat

The turtles will be under careful observation throughout the nesting season, which lasts until September.

ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi environmental officials are preparing for critically endangered sea turtles to return to Saadiyat Island for the nesting season.

The hawksbill sea turtles are expected to return over the coming weeks and will be under observation by the environmental services team of the emirate’s tourism authority.

The team will monitor and observe the sea turtle nests along Saadiyat Beach over nesting time, which usually lasts 50 to 70 days.

The nesting season lasts until September. Each turtle nest typically contains about 90 to 100 eggs.

Hawksbill sea turtles have been listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, with numbers decreasing globally at critical rates.

More than 80 per cent of the species’ population has disappeared over the past three generations because of natural habitation destruction and excessive hunting.

Strict guidelines are in place around the Saadiyat nesting area. Development is banned within 60 metres of the beach to maintain a natural sand hill barrier between the turtles and human activity.

“Our main objective during the nesting season is to ensure the sea turtles are not disturbed during the delicate nest-digging and egg-laying process,” said Buthaina Al Qubaisi, environment manager at TDIC, the company developing Saadiyat.

“When the hatchlings emerge, we work to safeguard their passage to the water by maintaining a clear route for them to follow.”

Loud noises and bright lights disorient and disturb the hatchlings as they make their way from the nest to the sea, which has prompted TDIC to impose further protective measures.

These include the dimming of night lights during the hatching period, the removal of beach furniture, the restriction of certain leisure activities after sunset and the installation of further signage around nesting sites.

newsdesk@thenational.ae

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