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Endangered Turtles begins nesting on Bu Tinah Island

(WAM) / 24 April 2010

Abu Dhabi - A group of critically endangered sea turtles have begun nesting on Bu Tinah Island, according to researchers from the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) who are surveying the island’s unique biodiversity.

Last week, 5 nests were confirmed by EAD experts and the number is expected to increase over the coming months.

The Hawksbill turtles have been observed arriving onto the beach to nest as night falls on the Island. They were seen to be digging a pit in the sand, laying their eggs, covering it with sand and then returning to the sea.

‘Bu Tinah Island’s beaches provide a quiet and peaceful nesting ground for Hawksbill turtles. This is yet another reason why Bu Tinah Island deserves to be one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. We urge people to vote for it,’ said Thabit Al Abdessalaam, Director of EAD’s Biodiversity Management Sector.

Although a clutch of Hawksbill eggs usually consists of 80 to 125 eggs, the majority of hatchlings do not make it to adulthood as they get preyed on by seabirds or crabs. In a testament to the wonder of Mother Nature, female hatchlings that survive to adulthood return to the same nesting beaches where they were hatched.

Hawksbill sea turtles are listed as critically endangered under the IUCN Redlist and are the only sea turtles known to nest on Abu Dhabi’s offshore islands. Globally, hawksbill turtle populations declined due to the historical trade in their tortoiseshell. Other threats include the loss of nesting beaches due to coastal development, loss of foraging habitats, marine debris, accidental hits from boat propellers and accidentally getting caught in fishermens’ nests.

In March 2010, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) launched an international campaign to encourage people to vote for Bu Tinah Island, as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Bu Tinah Island was shortlisted among 28 finalists from a list of 447 sites and the New 7 Wonders of Nature will be declared on November 11, 2011.The campaign was launched under the patronage of H.H. Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of EAD.

Bu Tinah Island, located around 130 km west of Abu Dhabi, is a core area of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve-the first marine biosphere reserve in the region. The Island is unique; in spite of the harsh temperatures and salinity, its habitats and species, including coral, seagrass, dugongs and sea turtles, continue to thrive, making the island an important location for climate change studies.

There are seven reasons to vote for Bu Tinah Island:

1.   Coral Reefs: Their survival, despite the harsh environment, has given researchers insight into coral reef survival elsewhere in the world in the face of global warming.

2.   Natural Mangroves: They reach an average height of 5 meters and support wildlife including birds, fish and crustaceans.

3.   Hawksbill Turtles: Every year, these critically endangered species arrive to Bu Tinah Island to nest.

4.   Dugongs: These threatened species are often spotted swimming among the Island’s extensive seagrass meadows. They have been able to live without disturbance in a clean natural sanctuary, thanks to EAD’s management of the marine biosphere reserve.

5.   Dolphins: The Indo-pacific humpback, bottlenose and common dolphins swim around the Island.

6.   Ospreys: Bu Tinah Island is a major breeding site for this globally important bird.

7.   Socotra Cormorants: Bu Tinah Island is a roost site for about 20,000-25,000 of these birds.

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