11 Hawksbill sea turtles released to habitat

Filed on April 2, 2011

DUBAI Hawksbill sea turtles are a critically endangered species, often hunted and eaten illegally in many countries. However, when 11 malnourished Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) recently reached Dubai shores during migration, they were rescued, rehabilitated and released to their habitat, thanks to Dubai Municipality (DM) officials.

Inspectors from the Marine Environment and Wildlife Section of the Municipality received some of them during their routine patrols. A few others were spotted by Dubai beachgoers who tippedoff municipal officials about the presence of the marine turtles, said Head of the Section Mohammed AbdulRahman Hassan.

“This is the first time we are noticing such young, juvenile Hawksbill turtles here. They were highly malnourished as their movements were restricted due to barnacles and mussels sticking to their carapace,” he told Khaleej Times after announcing the release. The turtles were three to five inches in length and weighed between 50 and 150 grams.

Hassan said his section sought the help of a specialised private centre to conduct the required tests as a preparation for the turtles rehabilitation and then to release them back to their habitat. “This beautiful creature has a long history. Many years ago, they were found in abundance around the world. But they are now in such a condition that some years later you might need to go to museums to find them instead of sea shores, that too, even not live turtles, rather their bones and carapace. Their migratory behaviour has made them more vulnerable,” he said in a media statement, pointing out that this behaviour has made it harder for policy makers to make laws to stop hunting these turtles.

The hawksbill sea turtles are being protected by different international laws and treaties as well as laws at the national level. However, Hassan said, stricter enforcement of these laws, and better awareness among humans are necessary to save the endangered species.

Dubai Municipality requested fishermen and beachgoers to cooperate with it to preserve this unique and threatened species and not to expose or destruct its nesting places on beaches, as well as to report such cases in order to send them back to their natural habitat. Officials of the Marine Environment and Wildlife Section can be contacted during working hours on phone numbers: 04-6826/606 6822 or after working hours on Municipality’s emergency number 800 900.

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