Sea tur­tle re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme to op­er­ate from cap­i­tal’s Na­tional Aquar­ium

The National - News - - NEWS | EMIRATES - ANNA ZACHARIAS

A tur­tle re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme will be es­tab­lished at the Na­tional Aquar­ium in Abu Dhabi.

The pro­gramme, man­aged by En­vi­ron­ment Agency Abu Dhabi, will be­gin when the aquar­ium opens in the cap­i­tal’s Al Qana devel­op­ment.

The project will run for at least five years.

“Hav­ing such fa­cil­i­ties within the con­fines of Abu Dhabi will as­sist our con­tin­u­ous ef­forts to pre­serve wildlife in the emi­rate,” said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dha­heri, the agency’s sec­re­tary gen­eral.

“By col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Na­tional Aquar­ium, we will be able to re­ha­bil­i­tate var­i­ous wildlife species be­fore re­leas­ing them into their nat­u­ral habi­tats, while expanding our sci­en­tific stud­ies.”

The aquar­ium will sup­port the agency’s satel­lite tag­ging pro­gramme, re­search and data col­lec­tion, of­fer in­tern­ships for bi­ol­ogy and vet­eri­nary stu­dents and pro­mote ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences.

Its con­ser­va­tion pro­grammes will fo­cus on the hawks­bill tur­tle and the green tur­tle.

“As far back as 2001, we have been work­ing on con­serv­ing sea tur­tles in Abu Dhabi wa­ters,” Dr Al Dha­heri said.

“Now, the over­all for­ag­ing sea tur­tle pop­u­la­tions, namely hawks­bill and green tur­tles, have been rel­a­tively sta­ble over the last decade. Based on data from aerial sur­veys, we have more than 5,000 wild sea tur­tles in our wa­ters.”

The aquar­ium will pro­vide vet­eri­nary sup­port and in­house care to in­jured marine an­i­mals un­til they can be re­leased into the wild.

“Our daily lives have be­come dis­con­nected from the nat­u­ral world and, while we are slowly re­al­is­ing the im­pact that hu­mans are hav­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment, there is still a long way to go to ad­dress these is­sues,” said Paul Hamil­ton, the aquar­ium’s gen­eral man­ager.

“That is why it is so im­por­tant to reach new au­di­ences and ed­u­cate fu­ture gen­er­a­tions about the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing and re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing our wildlife and ecosys­tems.”

Wild sea tur­tles are among the most highly mi­gra­tory an­i­mals on the planet and their pop­u­la­tions are a re­flec­tion of the con­di­tion of marine en­vi­ron­ments.

Of the seven species of marine tur­tles, two are found in Abu Dhabi’s wa­ters: the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered hawks­bill tur­tle and the en­dan­gered green tur­tle.

The aquar­ium was sched­uled to open early this year in Al Qana en­ter­tain­ment and din­ing devel­op­ment on Al Maqta Creek.

The aquar­ium, which spans more than 7,000 square me­tres, will be home to 33,000 marine crea­tures that will be cared for by a team of 80 seal­ife ex­perts and spe­cial­ists.

As well as fo­cus­ing on the marine life of the UAE and Ara­bian Gulf, the aquar­ium will fea­ture species from as far as the trop­i­cal Pa­cific Ocean.

The tur­tle re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme is the lat­est in a se­ries of en­vi­ron­men­tal achieve­ments for the emi­rate.

This week, En­vi­ron­ment Agency Abu Dhabi was granted the abil­ity to is­sue fines of up to Dh10 mil­lion for en­vi­ron­men­tal breaches, in­stead of the pre­vi­ous cap of Dh10,000.

Pres­i­dent Sheikh Khal­ifa also is­sued a law to reg­u­late camel graz­ing in the emi­rate.

Camels can no longer graze within two kilo­me­tres of na­ture re­serves, which will pro­tect the desert’s ecosys­tem.

Mean­while, of­fi­cials dis­cussed the in­tro­duc­tion of an early warn­ing sys­tem to spot lo­cust swarms and pro­tect agri­cul­ture and veg­e­ta­tion.

WWF-US

Tur­tle pop­u­la­tions in Abu Dhabi’s wa­ters have sta­bilised thanks to ef­forts by the emi­rate’s en­vi­ron­men­tal agency

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