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UAE Environment

Watch: Abu Dhabi releases 214 rehabilitated turtles into the wild

Move helps preserve a stable population of the marine creatures in the capital’s waters

Still from video shared by Abu Dhabi Media Office about the turtle release
Image Credit: Screengrab/X

Abu Dhabi: As many as 214 rehabilitated turtles were released off the Abu Dhabi shore recently.

In line with the Year of Sustainability, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with The National Aquarium (TNA) and Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Center (YSWRRRC), released green turtles, hawksbill turtles and loggerhead turtles that were rehabilitated to their natural habitat at the beach at Jumeirah Saadiyat Island.

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The National Aquarium supervised the rehabilitation of 200 turtles, while the YSWRRRC rehabilitated a group of 14 hawksbill turtles. The first batch of turtles was released on June 6 while the second batch was released on June 8, in the presence of officials from EAD and Yas Sea Centre and marine environment experts.

The first release was attended by Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary-General of Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi; Thomas Kaferle, General Manager of SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, and many other officials. The second release was attended by the general public at Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas that involved a series of activations.


Rescue and rehabilitation programme

The release of the turtles is a culmination of the rescue and rehabilitation programme of EAD in collaboration with The National Aquarium since a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2020 with a total of 1,067 turtles being rescued. EAD also signed an MoU with YSWRRC in 2023, rescuing a group of 23 turtles.

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EAD has been researching, monitoring and protecting marine turtles in Abu Dhabi since 1999 and has succeeded in maintaining a stable population in Abu Dhabi waters. There are four main marine turtle species in Abu Dhabi, both green turtles and hawksbills frequent the emirate’s waters, while olive ridley and loggerhead are occasional visitors.

Cold stunning

Decades of research by EAD indicate that several turtles can show signs of cold stunning – a condition in which sea turtles become very weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures and therefore become lethargic and are eventually unable to swim causing them to float on the surface of the water. In some cases, cold stunning can also lead to a build-up of barnacles on their shells, which hampers the turtle’s ability to move, hence EAD’s keenness to save them, nurture them back to life and then release them back into their habitats.

Supporting the turtle population

Dr Shaikha said: “It is always exciting when it is that time of the year where we release turtles back into their natural habitat. It reveals that all our rescue and rehabilitation programmes, whether in partnership with The National Aquarium or The Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre have been a great success. This cohort of turtles are a large number of 214 which will allow us to continue building a stable and abundant population of turtles in Abu Dhabi waters. We give special care to the turtles and we do all this work so that we are preserving our marine species for future generations so that they can enjoy a flourishing environment.”


She added: “I would like to thank the public and volunteers who have assisted us in rescuing these vulnerable species and our partners who have helped rehabilitate the turtles prior to us releasing them. We greatly appreciate the dedication of the teams ensuring that the turtles get the best possible care.”

Fouad Mashal, President and Vice Chairman, Al Barakah Holding, said: “Today is a special day for The National Aquarium as we are returning turtle number 1,000 back to the wild. This milestone marks an incredible effort by the team at The National Aquarium who have rescued, rehabilitated and released such a huge number of turtles, making this project one of the most successful in the world... The family responsible for the rescue of turtle number 1,000 were present for an emotional and symbolic farewell.”

Thomas Kaferle, General Manager of SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, said: “We are extremely proud of our partnership with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Today, we celebrate a significant milestone: our contribution to the rehabilitation and release of Hawksbill turtles back into their natural habitat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. This achievement underscores our commitment to establishing The Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre as the region’s largest dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return facility. Our goal is to leverage our world-class facility and SeaWorld’s 60 years of experience not only to rehabilitate and return these animals but also to support the vision of creating a sustainable future for generations to come.”