Turtle Rehabilitation in Jumeirah
The Turtle is a flagship species for the conservation of the marine environment and is protected throughout most of the world. All seven species of marine turtles found globally are listed as vulnerable to extinction, endangered or critically endangered. The Hawksbill turtle, native to the Middle East, is listed as critically endangered with only an estimated 8,000 nesting females left worldwide. Without human intervention, the Hawksbill turtle will almost certainly become extinct within our lifetime. On a global scale the greatest threat to marine turtles are all caused by man.
Without exception, all of the turtles found in the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project were at one stage very sick or injured. Turtles are brought to Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office or to the Aquarium team at Burj Al Arab by members of the public where they are then referred to veterinarian Dr Mirjam Hampel and the team at the Al Wasl Veterinary Clinic. Once the cause of sickness is identified and primary care has been administered, the turtles are returned to the Burj Al Arab Aquarium where the team can closely monitor their recovery. During the recovery process, the animals are subjected to ongoing veterinary examination and monitoring, with appropriate medication or surgery being administered as necessary.
Once the team is satisfied with the progress and condition of the turtles, they are then transferred to the Mina A' Salam turtle enclosure. Animals that are already too weak to benefit from the treatment regime and succumb to their illnesses are sent to the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory where a full post-mortem examination is carried out to determine the cause of death.
The large enclosure at the Mina A’Salam allows the team to monitor the final stages of rehabilitation before the turtles are released back into UAE territorial waters.
The types of debilitation are varied, some are injuries caused by entanglement or ingestion of plastic waste discarded into the marine environment. Some are sick rather than injured, normally manifested by abnormally heavy barnacle growth on the carapace or ‘shell’.
Turtles are reptiles and as such are cold-blooded, gaining their body heat from the surrounding environment. Young turtles in particular are therefore negatively affected by cold sea temperatures experienced within this region during the months of December, January and February which is when the majority of sick turtles are found.
The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project has been running successfully since 2004 and is a collaborative effort of staff at Wildlife Protection Office and Burj Al Arab Aquarium. The project has seen the release of many rehabilitated turtles of which, to date two have been fitted with satellite transmitters to enable us to track their journey.
Our mission at the rehabilitation unit is:
- To rehabilitate sick and injured turtles and return them to their natural habitat.
- To assess turtle health and provide appropriate treatment.
- To raise awareness of the issues facing turtles and the marine environment.
- To gain a better understanding of turtle migration patterns and general biology through data collection and satellite tracking programme.
Rehabilitated Green Turtle Jade
The Burj Al Arab Aquarium team successfully released Jade - a 150 kg green turtle they spent nine months rehabilitating - along with 15 rehabilitated Hawksbill turtles, about 15 kilometres off shore from Burj Al Arab.
Estimated to be anywhere from 40 to 80 years old, Jade was found near Palm Jebel Ali in February and nursed back to health by the team at the aquarium before being fitted with a sophisticated tracking device, generously sponsored by Madinat Jumeirah
On Wednesday 11 November, Jade was released, to glide away through Gulf waters, after more than eight months of rehabilitation. It took four men to have her from the boat and place her gently into the water, along with 16 baby hawksbill turtles, considered critically endangered.
The total number of rehabilited turtles released by the aquarium team this year has reached to a staggering 430 turtles.
You can follow the progress of Jade or other sea turtles (like Dibba’s story) by visiting seaturtle.org.
It is the projects goal to release as many of our rehabilitated turtles back to their gulf with satellite tags fitted to them. The invaluable data that we collect from each turtle that is released with a satellite tag helps us understand a little bit more about this relatively unkown marine animal and the journeys it makes to its feeding, breeding and nesting grounds.
We publish our turtle tracking at www.seaturtle.org and thus we provide a powerful educational and awareness tool that we make freely available for the benefit of all.
For more information about the Jumeirah Turtle Rehabilitation Unit, please contact us:
Telephone: +971 4 301 7198
Click here to visit our Facebook page.