Satellite tags track survival of turtles with missing flippers

Plastic is the biggest threat to sea turtles who get entangled and lose a limb

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Aqua, Lucky, Spots, Oogie are missing a front flipper each but that did not dissuade the turtles from wading into the Arabian Sea on Wednesday along with nine others rescued and cared for by the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project.

The amputees from the green and hawksbill species along with a loggerhead named Turtala were fitted with satellite tags to track their progress across the oceans.

They each lost a flipper after becoming entangled in plastic - the turtles’ biggest threat according to conservationists.

The 13 turtles were released as part of celebrations for UAE’s 46th National Day by the Jumeirah Group’s rehabilitation project.

“We took the opportunity to celebrate National Day. It is also a good way to get people involved and interested because these animals need protection. With awareness will come a better understanding of why people need to pick up rubbish on beaches and not throw rubbish into the sea,” said Warren Baverstock, Burj Al Arab’s Aquarium Operations Manager.

Rescued from the country’s shores by residents, the turtles spent between six months and three years being nursed to health at the centre.

The satellite tags will help the project teams find out if the amputees can reintegrate into the wild.

“Very little is known about what happens when you release turtles with limbs missing back to the world. With satellite tags we will be able to see how well they do and we can share this information with the turtle community worldwide so others that rehabilitate will feel more confident about releasing these individuals to the wild,” Mr Baverstock said.

Some 55 sea turtles, not all amputees, have been satellite tagged and more than 1,500 released since the project began in 2004.

Of those released, 10 had been transferred to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo during the hot summer.


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With winter approaching, residents have been urged to bring stranded turtles to the project centre based at the Burj Al Arab and Madinat Jumeirah.

“People need to be vigilant and keep their eyes open for turtles,” he said.

“The rough seas have begun and cooler weather is upon us. These animals need help from people when they see them washed up on shore.”

Residents who spot turtles on UAE beaches can message the project on its Facebook page.