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Sea turtles are considered an indicator of the health of the ecosystem Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A new batch of turtles has been released at Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary. The Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG) in cooperation with Burj Al Arab Turtle Rehabilitation Centre released seven green turtles and 11 Hawksbill turtles. A total of 52 small turtles have been released so far. They were hatched from the nests at the Jebel Ali Wildlife Sanctuary, home to 539 species of marine and plant life.

There are two types of turtles in the reserve that are threatened with extinction and categorised in the Red List, according to the classification of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The first species is Chelonas mydas, which depends on the diversity of natural habitats for food, and the second type is Eretmochelys imbricate. Jebel Ali Reserve is the only beach area in the Arabian Gulf where these turtles lay their eggs, while all other nesting areas are on the islands.

For the record, the Eretmochelys imbricate turtles’ nesting season extends from March to June, during which eggs are kept in sheds to protect them from predators such as Arabian foxes and seagulls. The average female adult lays eggs three times per season over a period of two weeks and lays about 80-120 eggs per nest, and eggs hatch after 55 to 60 days. The number of nests to date has reached 41 nests in 2020.

Sea turtles are considered an indicator of the health of the ecosystem, and therefore Dubai Municipality has arranged monitoring programmes during the nesting season. It has also developed a special programme for satellite tracking, and aims to raise a high level of knowledge of migration paths, patterns of movement throughout the year and their nutrition areas, contributing to the development of strategies to protect this species through cooperation with other parties at regional and local levels. It also aims at facilitating legislation for improving survival opportunities, including proposed new areas to preserve their feeding and reproduction.