A baby hawksbill turtle emerges from the sand. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: More than 40 baby turtles made a successful return to warm Arabian Gulf waters after they emerged from a nest located between the Saadiyat beach and the Monte-Carlo Beach Club, the environmental services teams at Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) announced on Monday.

The successful hatching of the fist hawksbill turtle nest on Saadiyat Island has been observed by members of TDIC’s environment team, security guards and members of the public.

“We are very excited that the eggs, which are from this season’s first batch, have hatched safely. After being alerted by security guards at Saadiyat Beach, we observed them and helped guide some hatchlings safely to the sea. They were confused because the nest was located a bit farther away from the shoreline than usual,” said Dr Nathalie Staelens, head of environmental services at TDIC.

The hawksbill is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, as its population declined by more than 80 per cent worldwide over the last three generations due to habitat destruction and poaching.

As part of the TDIC’s hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme, every year several nests are identified and steps taken to ensure their safety and the security of the hatchlings.

Since the start of the programme in early 2010, some 650 eggs have hatched successfully on Saadiyat.

Additionally, operational guidelines are set to protect the nesting sites by restricting beach access to pedestrians who reach the beach via elevated boardwalks, preventing people from walking through the delicate dune system and disturbing the nests.

“It has always been our priority to make sure that Saadiyat remains a natural habitat for marine life. We are delighted that this is the case for the sea turtles that continue to lay their eggs year after year,” said Ali Al Hammadi, deputy managing director at TDIC.

“We urge everyone to adhere to the strict guidelines imposed by our environmental team to ensure the safety of hawksbill turtle nests,” he added.

To ensure the protection of Saadiyat’s coastal dune system and the safety of the hawksbill turtles, resort development has been restricted on Saadiyat beach to at least 60 metres back from the seaward edge of the coastal dunes.