Dur­ing cold weather, you may see these beau­ti­ful crea­tures on the beach.Nouran Salahieh tells you what you can do to help them


Found a sea tur­tle? Here’s how to help these en­dan­gered crea­tures.

We may be en­joy­ing the cool weather, but lo­cal sea tur­tles, which are al­ready en­dan­gered, are hav­ing a hard time, and are wash­ing up on UAE shores. While this is com­mon be­tween De­cem­ber and February, when tem­per­a­tures are at their low­est, it can lead to ill­ness and death if the rep­tiles are not treated prop­erly – which is why the Dubai Tur­tle Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Project (DTRP) is call­ing on UAE res­i­dents to alert them if they spot a tur­tle in dis­tress – in­stead of throw­ing them back in the wa­ter or try­ing to treat them them­selves.

‘It’s the nat­u­ral thing for peo­ple to think they’re help­ing,’ says War­ren Baver­stock, DTRP’s op­er­a­tions man­ager, ‘but it causes a lot of trauma for an an­i­mal that’s al­ready sick.’

Since tur­tles are cold-blooded crea­tures, a de­cline in wa­ter tem­per­a­ture re­sults in them not be­ing able to clean them­selves of­ten, which re­sults in bar­na­cles mak­ing them heav­ier. That, com­bined with dis­ease, can cause them to starve be­cause they can’t dive down and feed. Sev­eral species of sea tur­tles wash up on UAE beaches, in­clud­ing green, log­ger­head, and hawks­bill tur­tles, which are na­tive to the Mid­dle East.

Hawks­bill tur­tles are listed as crit­i­cally en­dan­gered, and on av­er­age, eight of them are found per day. Ac­cord­ing to David Robin­son, DTRP and Burj Al Arab Aquar­ium as­sis­tant op­er­a­tions man­ager, ‘hawks­bill tur­tles have had an 87 per cent pop­u­la­tion de­cline in re­cent years, all caused by hu­mans.’

The tur­tles brought in to the DTRP are of­ten en­crusted with bar­na­cles, miss­ing limbs be­cause of plas­tic en­tan­gle­ments, have punc­tured lungs, blood dis­ease, or a num­ber of other prob­lems. There was once also a case that in­volved a tur­tle whose shell was cracked in half be­cause of a boat ac­ci­dent.

Since 2004, the team of seven has re­turned over a thousand tur­tles brought in by mem­bers of the pub­lic and con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions back to the sea. But they still need help from beach­go­ers to bring them found sea tur­tles. Tur­tles are first treated at the aquar­ium at the Burj Al Arab be­fore be­ing re­leased into the sea or re­cov­er­ing at the la­goon at Mad­i­nat Jumeirah.

The most im­me­di­ate way to help tur­tles is by re­frain­ing from littering at the beach. Tur­tles may in­gest or be­come en­tan­gled in plas­tic waste, and end up dy­ing or los­ing a limb. ‘It’s very com­mon to lose a flip­per be­cause of plas­tic en­tan­gle­ment,’ says David, hold­ing up a small tur­tle with a sev­ered flip­per.

Bar­na­cles, caused by low wa­ter tem­per­a­tures, can cause tur­tles to starve as they can’t dive down and feed

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