Special Features

The Marine Turtle Conservation Project

The Marine Turtle Conservation Project is a three-year programme launched by EWS-WWF in April 2010 to pinpoint the migration patterns and locate feeding grounds in the Gulf of the Hawksbill turtle using satellite tracking technology. Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Harvesting eggs at nesting beaches, loss of adequate nesting habitats, incidental mortality due to marine fisheries and degradation of marine habitats all contribute to the massive decline in marine turtle populations around the world. In addition there is little data on marine turtles in the waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula, and little is known about their migration patterns or foraging grounds.

Satellite tracking transmitters are fitted to the top of the turtle’s shell in a painless process and secured using a combination of fiberglass and resin. This transmitter sends a signal when the turtle surfaces to breathe giving the marine conservation team the location of that turtle on a map.

Spanning three-years, it is hoped that the outcome of this project will lead to conservation policies and plans to protect areas essential for the turtles’ survival.

The project aims to raise awareness of the needs of these animals at regional levels, identify their foraging grounds and share tracking data with relevant authorities to contribute to the development of a regional marine turtle conservation plan. In the first year, 20 turtles were tagged and this year 24 turtles have been tagged in the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Iran by the turtle tagging team at EWS-WWF and country partners as part of the Marine Turtle Conservation Project.

The Marine Research Foundation is the scientific advisor to the Marine Turtle Conservation Programme and the partners of the programme are:

• Wildlife & Aquatic Affairs Bureau of Iran
• Emirates Marine Environment Group (EMEG)
• Sharjah EPAA
• Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD )
• Ministry of Environment & Climate Affairs
• Environment Society of Oman (ESO)
• Ministry of Environment
• Qatar University
• Ras Laffan Industrial City

The Great Gulf Turtle Race
To help raise awareness of the conservation needs of marine turtles, EWS-WWF launched the Great Gulf Turtle Race. In a light-hearted bid to increase interest around these beautiful creatures and the plight they face as an endangered species, the turtle race will plot the number of kilometres the satellite tagged turtles in the Gulf have swam. As 23 Hawksbill turtles enter the Great Gulf Turtle Race 2011, they will be competing to become the furthest travelling turtle or the most popular turtle.

Visitors to www.gulfturtles.com are now able to chart the progress of the turtles as they migrate after nesting on Gulf beaches earlier this year. In addition the website holds a wealth of educational material on the Hawksbill turtles and EWS-WWF’s Marine Turtle Conservation Project.

The Ecology of the Hawksbill Turtles
Female Hawksbill turtles emerge from the sea to nest every three to four years. During the nesting season, a female may nest up to four times burying more than 100 eggs in each nest. The temperature of the sand dictates the gender of the hatchlings, so in cooler temperatures, male hatchlings emerge from the nest, while later in the nesting season when the sand is warmer, females emerge. After nesting, the adult female turtles return to their foraging grounds. Adult males live their entire lives at sea, never emerging from the water except to breathe.

Suffering an 80% global loss of population in just three generations, Hawskbill turtles are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. Threats to their habitat through coastal development, accidental catch in fisheries, targeted egg harvesting and climate change severely threaten their chances of survival. The Marine Turtle Conservation Project, working with its partners region-wide, is working to stem these losses in the GCC region.

Sponsoring a turtle in the Great Gulf Turtle Race
The project offers the opportunity for organisations to contribute to the conservation efforts in the region by sponsoring one or several turtles. The turtle sponsorship covers tagging costs for that particular turtle, and gives the supporting organisation the right to name the turtles.

Adopt a Turtle
The Marine Turtle Conservation Programme also offers turtle adoption packs which can be purchased from these outlets: Al Boom Dive Centre, Fairmont Dubai, More Café, Desert Island Resort and Spa Anantara and Pavillion Dive Centre in Jumeirah.
The adoption packs will also be available soon through these online outlets: Goumbook - www.Goumbook.com

Ekotribe - www.Ekotribe.com

Journey Toys – www.journeytoys.ae

Check Out For Turtles
EWS-WWF is continuing to encourage retailers, hotels, dive centres and restaurants interested in highlighting their support for the Marine Turtle Conservation Project by asking their customers to donate 10AED at the checkout.
E-mail turtles@ewswwf.ae to find out more.

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