The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and The National Aquarium (TNA) have safely rescued over 500 sea turtles as part of their joint Wildlife Rescue Program, the first rescue, rehabilitation and release initiative in Abu Dhabi. The programme was launched in July 2020 and includes purpose-built laboratories, research and rehabilitation facilities at The National Aquarium. In 2022, Wildlife Rescue Program launched a first-of-its-kind rescue boat in the presence of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and plans are under way for a first-of-its-kind wildlife ambulance, capable of providing immediate first aid on remote beaches. The programme continues to grow each year in an effort to protect and celebrate the natural treasures of the UAE.
In the past three years, the programme has released four species of endangered sea turtles, including the Olive Ridley and Loggerhead, which are uncommon in these areas. Two whale sharks, one of which measured 7 meters long, sea birds, sea snakes and a variety of exotic animals add to the list of successful rescues.
To monitor the success of the programme, the sea turtles and whale sharks were fitted with satellite tracking devices. This allows valuable research to be conducted into their post-release wellbeing and habits as they migrate thousands of kilometres through the ocean. This data is important both in this region and globally, as many of these animals will travel the world. The programme has also grown to include the Turtle Sanctuary located at Louvre Abu Dhabi, as a last step in rehabilitating the larger turtles before their eventual release.
“It is incredible how much EAD in partnership with TNA has been able to achieve so far,” said Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD. “The prime success is how we have been able to not just rescue and rehabilitate turtles, but how we are able to release them back into their natural habitats ensuring that as a species they continue to propagate and survive. We endeavour to safeguard our biodiversity in Abu Dhabi and the Wildlife Rescue Program is a major stepping stone to achieving this goal. We are already on the right track and the programme is extremely promising for the future of other species.”
Paul Hamilton, General Manager at TNA, added, "The strategic success of our official collaboration with EAD not only underlines the immense value of the Wildlife Rescue Program but also demonstrates its growing potential. Our continued success also depends on the support of the public, as we have received hundreds of calls alerting the Wildlife Rescue Program to various animal emergencies. The Wildlife Rescue Program is the first rescue, rehabilitation and research facility in Abu Dhabi. In 2022 TNA launched the Junior Marine Biologist Program, specifically targeting children aged 5 to 15, to get hands-on and involved with the rehabilitation of sea turtles. In addition to this programme, all guests to the aquarium can observe the Wildlife Rescue Program’s daily activities and its dedicated veterinarians in action.”
With EAD being the largest environment regulator in the Middle East and TNA being the largest aquarium in the region, their official collaboration with the official Wildlife Rescue Program has proven to be a major success in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing a large number of sea turtles and other creatures in line with the emirate's commitment to wildlife conservation.