GULF GREEN TURTLE CONSERVATION
In May 2016, Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF) launched a groundbreaking marine conservation initiative – Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project - with the goal to enhance conservation of the endangered green turtle by improving our knowledge of green turtle behavior at sea and identifying critical marine areas for their protection in the UAE and wider region.
This follows the success of the Marine Turtle Conservation Project which ran from 2010 to 2014 and focused on identifying critical areas for the protection of critically endangered hawksbill turtles. Over a period of four years, we followed the journeys of 75 female Hawksbill Turtles from the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Iran which helped identify Important Turtle Areas (ITAs) for marine turtle conservation and contributed towards recommendations for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a fundamental component of the UAE’s marine conservation agenda.
By 2020, Gulf Green Turtle Conservation project will provide a comprehensive picture of habitat utilisation and regional turtle ecology to enable the identification of Important Turtle Areas (ITAs) critical to their survival. This will be a direct result of the research undertaken in the Gulf Green Turtle Project, which will provide science-based information to governments and policymakers essential to make informed decisions to protect green turtles and their habitats.
The research project is supported and promoted by public facing awareness raising on the importance of marine turtles, the ambassadors of our seas, who act as indicators of the health of our marine environment. Additionally, it will highlight the interconnectivity between humans, turtles and the marine environment.
Gulf Green Turtle Conservation would not be possible without the support and commitment of our project partners and funding from our sponsors, who are critical to enable our work protecting marine species and critical habitats in the UAE. If you would like to find out how to become a sponsor please click here.
THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION
Marine turtle (also known as sea turtle) populations around the globe are threatened with extinction. With increased coastal development, urbanisation and industrialisation, global populations of marine turtles are in decline. Nowadays, critical measures are urgently needed to safeguard turtle nesting, feeding and breeding sites on beaches and at sea; as well as their migratory pathways. Two out of the seven species of marine turtles (sea turtles), the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), occur in Gulf waters. Worldwide, the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2008) lists the hawksbill turtle as critically endangered and the green turtle as endangered (IUCN 2004). At the local and regional level the stocks of these species are threatened and the number of foraging habitats and nesting grounds are continually declining.
GULF GREEN TURTLE CONSERVATION HAS FOUR MAIN OBJECTIVES
- To help identify Important Turtle Areas (ITAs) and reproductive migration patterns based on tracking and genetic information that will drive turtle conservation in the UAE and wider region
- To provide key stakeholders and decision makers with science-based research to inform and guide marine turtle and wider marine conservation policies and strategic plans
- To help raise awareness of the important role turtles play in the wider marine environment
- To secure funding through sponsors who will support us in our efforts to conserve endangered marine species, such as marine turtles, and critical habitats in the UAE
The groundbreaking scientific research component, under the project name Gulf Green Turtle Project, commenced in May 2016 with fieldwork off the coast of Abu Dhabi with our project partners Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Later this year it will extend to various turtle nesting and foraging sites across the region.
Over the course of the next four years our marine experts will gather scientific data on green turtle migration and mating patterns in order to identify critical marine habitats in need of protecting. The research includes tagging green turtles with satellite transmitters in various nesting and foraging sites across the region, obtaining small tissue samples (DNA) from the turtles which will then be analysed to detect linkages between feeding and nesting populations; and finally, performing a laparoscopy on adult-sized turtles to provide ground breaking data on population connectivity important for the conservation of green turtle populations in the long-term.
Click here to track the turtles and find out where the turtles have traveled so far.
Step 1 - Health Check
Health check - once secured in open wooden boxes, the turtles are measured and DNA samples taken, these help us to understand the links between nesting sites around the world and the feeding sites in the Gulf area.
Step 2 - Laparoscopy
A laparoscopy (small surgical procedure) may also be performed. This provides groundbreaking data on turtle populations dynamics and the potential impact of climate change on green turtles.
Step 3 -Satellite Transmitter
Attaching the satellite transmitter is easy and totally pain free, there are no cuts, just a simple, non-toxic glue.
Step 4 - Tagging Device
We also pop on a simple tagging device to the front of each flipper so that we can properly identify them in the future.
We all have a role in protecting green turtles. Nesting season (April-July) is a critical time when turtles are at their most vulnerable; venturing into shallow waters and then onto beaches to lay their eggs. If you come across turtles while on a beach or out in a boat, we have a few top tips on how to avoid disturbing them:
- DO keep your distance if you see any turtles on a beach, and don’t shine any light on them, as this irritates them
- DO take your rubbish/ trash with you when you leave the beach, as turtles sometimes mistake trash for food (jellyfish)
- DO make sure you are extra vigilant when riding jet skis or boats during these months, as turtles swim in shallow waters, making them vulnerable to being hit
- DON'T drive on sandy beaches, which could crush turtle eggs and scare turtles away
BECOME A GREEN TURTLE SPONSOR
Protecting our marine biodiversity is at the core of Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF's (EWS-WWF) mission. Why? Healthy wildlife populations mean ecosystems thrive. By combating threats like habitat loss and overuse of natural resources, EWS-WWF creates a better future for green turtles every day.
By working with private and public sector partners, we can show it’s possible to balance environmental and human needs, and that strong growth can happen while simultaneously halting and reversing damage to the marine environment.
EWS-WWF is offering a unique partnership opportunity for organisations interested in supporting as sponsors. It’s a great oppotuntiy to become part of sustainable solutions in the UAE, and gain recognition for your commitment in addition to providing critical funding, you will have access to a unique series of communication and engagement benefits, exclusively designed around our marine conservation programme. Click here for details.