Abu Dhabi 8 April 2017: The Environmental Services team at the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) has concluded preparations on Saadiyat Island for the Hawksbill sea turtle nesting season.
The critically endangered turtles are due to begin returning soon, and will be under the careful observation of TDIC’s experienced Environmental Services team throughout the nesting season, which extends through the month of September.
As a part of TDIC’s one-of-a-kind Hawksbill Sea Turtle Protection Program, the company’s Environmental Services team will monitor and observe the sea turtle nests along Saadiyat Beach. Additional protective measures have also been taken in the form of cautionary signage and an awareness campaign that aims to prevent visitors from harming the nests until hatching, a period that usually lasts for 50-70 days. Each nest typically contains 90-100 eggs.
Hawksbill sea turtles have been listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species, with their numbers decreasing globally at critical rates. Over 80 percent of the Hawksbill sea turtle population has disappeared over the past three generations, having fallen victim to natural habitat destruction and excessive hunting.
Since its inception and the commencement of development on Saadiyat Island, TDIC has taken every necessary measure to protect the natural habitat of the Hawksbill sea turtles along the sandy beaches of the Island. Strict guidelines were introduced by the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Protection Program, including the banning of any development activities within 60 meters of the beach, in order to maintain a natural sand hill barrier between the turtle nesting areas and any human activities.
“We have always prioritized the protection of marine life on Saadiyat Island, and we are very happy to witness sea turtles coming back to nest and lay their eggs. The turtles’ return is a testament to the success of our environmental protection program,” said Sufian Hasan Al Marzooqi, TDIC’s Chief Executive Officer. “This achievement would not have been possible if not for the great support and cooperation offered by our partners, residents and contractors, who always strictly observe the guidelines issued by our team,” he added.
Since the protection program’s launch in 2010, Saadiyat Island has witnessed the hatching of thousands of eggs, highlighting the importance of the program’s strict guidelines, which ban access to the beach except on special elevated wooden platforms that ensure the nesting habitats and sand hill structures are not disturbed.
Buthaina Al Qubaisi, Environment Manager at TDIC, said: “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. 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.
No Night Lights
Furthermore, TDIC requests that all residents take part in protecting the endangered turtles by shutting off night lights, closing curtains at night, staying off the beach after sunset and avoiding visible turtle routes so that the company’s environmental team can study the turtle’s natural behavior.
It is well known that Hawksbill sea turtles lay their eggs along the beaches of a number of Abu Dhabi’s islands, including Saadiyat islands, both well known for their pristine sandy beaches with permanent low tides, making them ideal habitats for sea turtles. The exact history of the presence of this species on Saadiyat island is not well known, but it has been proven that female sea turtles come back to their home land for nesting 30 years after hatching.
– By Sheena Amos