ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With determined flaps of its flippers, a baby sea turtle was gently placed into the ocean, only to be unexpectedly swept back to shore by the strong tide.
Undeterred, it made another attempt, and this time successfully swam into the Persian Gulf waters, which caressed the shores of picturesque beachfront tourist resorts nearby.
This heartwarming moment is part of a larger effort by Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency to assist sea turtles in distress caused by climate change and various other challenges.
Over the past three years, scientists have rescued, rehabilitated, and released approximately 500 sea turtles in the hopes that they will thrive once again in their natural habitat.
During the most recent release in early June, the Wildlife Rescue Program of Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency, supported by community members, escorted around 80 sea turtles to the water’s edge.
Notably, several of these turtles were equipped with satellite tracking devices, a valuable tool for scientists in comprehending migration patterns and assessing the effectiveness of rehabilitation techniques.
This initiative enables a more comprehensive understanding of these magnificent creatures and aids in improving conservation efforts.
Traditionally, sea turtles have faced significant threats due to hunting for their meat and eggs, as well as the use of their shells in jewelry. However, a multitude of anthropogenic factors contribute to the decline in all seven sea turtle species.
Hind al-Ameri, assistant scientist at the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, points out several man-made issues affecting sea turtles. Plastic pollution poses a substantial threat, causing harm when they mistake plastic debris for food or become entangled in it.
Vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing nets also pose dangers to these creatures. Additionally, coastal development reduces the availability of nesting habitats for sea turtles, which negatively affects their reproductive success.
The understanding of these human-induced challenges is crucial in order to implement effective conservation measures and mitigate the impact on sea turtle populations.
Indeed, climate change is recognized as a significant contributor to the challenges faced by sea turtles. Researchers have highlighted the detrimental impact of climate change on sea turtle populations and their habitats.
Rising global temperatures and changes in ocean currents directly affect the marine ecosystems that sea turtles rely on for food and nesting sites. Furthermore, climate change can lead to sea-level rise, which threatens nesting beaches, and the warming of nesting sands can impact hatchling sex ratios.
These factors collectively pose a grave threat to the survival and population dynamics of sea turtles. Recognizing and addressing the impacts of climate change is vital for the long-term conservation and protection of these magnificent creatures.
You are absolutely right. Warming oceans have detrimental effects on coral reefs, which are essential habitats for sea turtles to forage and seek protection.
The degradation and bleaching of coral reefs disrupt the delicate balance of marine ecosystems, impacting the availability of food and shelter for sea turtles.
Additionally, the warming of ocean waters can lead to shifts in currents, potentially exposing sea turtles to new predators or altering their migratory routes.
Furthermore, rising sea levels pose a threat to nesting beaches and can diminish the suitable areas where sea turtles can lay their eggs, hindering their reproductive success.
In addition to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, Emirates Nature-WWF has also been actively involved in sea turtle conservation in the Emirates.
Their marine conservation initiatives, launched more than a decade ago, have focused on studying the behavior of hawksbill and green turtles in the region.
These efforts aim to gather knowledge and develop strategies for the protection and preservation of sea turtle populations in the face of various threats, including those posed by climate change.
Aside from the efforts made by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and Emirates Nature-WWF, the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project has also played a crucial role in helping sick and injured sea turtles.
For nearly two decades, they have rehabilitated and released over 2,000 turtles back into the Persian Gulf.
Scientists have observed evidence of sea turtles adapting to climate change. The gender of sea turtles is influenced by the temperature at which their eggs develop.
Warmer temperatures typically result in a higher ratio of female turtles. Despite the warm conditions in the United Arab Emirates, which would potentially devastate the male turtle population, it is encouraging to note that the male population remains healthy and capable of reproduction.
This adaptation could indicate that sea turtles have some resilience to fluctuating temperatures and may possess the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Nonetheless, continued efforts to mitigate climate change and protect turtle habitats are crucial to safeguard their future survival.
Hind al-Ameri highlights the necessity to delve deeper into understanding how sea turtle species are adapting to the changing climate and what implications these adaptations might have in the context of climate change.
Studying such adaptations can provide valuable insights into the potential for sea turtles to adapt to future climate change scenarios.
The global community recognizes the urgency of limiting global warming and addressing its harmful consequences not only for sea turtles but for the entire planet. In this regard, Dubai will play a significant role when it hosts the upcoming United Nations summit on climate change in November.
This summit will provide a platform for crucial discussions and actions focused on mitigating climate change and its impacts, including those on sea turtles and their habitats.
It offers an opportunity for nations to collaborate, exchange knowledge, and chart a path toward a sustainable and resilient future for both humans and wildlife.