Five endangered turtles were released into the Arabian Gulf on World Turtle Day on Monday after being nursed back to health by marine biologists at Sharjah Aquarium.
The four adult hawksbill turtles and a green turtle were returned to the sea at Al Hamriya Beach in the emirate.
Despite international conventions prohibiting the hunting and trading of sea turtles, the global population of hawksbill turtles has plunged 80 per cent in three generations.
“Sometimes they get hit by a boat. Sometimes they try swallowing plastic thinking it’s a jellyfish. The turtles are brought to us for different reasons and we try to nurse them back to health before releasing them," said Rashed Al Shamsi, Sharjah Aquarium’s curator.
For the past six years the aquarium has been rehabilitating turtles and other marine animals with the aim of reintroducing them into the wild.
“One of the main things we do is to take care of all the environmental species. One of these tasks is to make sure that they are represented in the aquarium and that we give back to the environment," said Mr Al Shamsi.
However, preventing turtle populations from contracting would require international collaboration in conservation efforts, he said.
This week the Emirates Wildlife Society and World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) launched a four-year programme for scientists to track turtles.
“Partnerships play a key role in our efforts to drive the course of conservation," said Marina Antonopoulou, a marine programme leader at EWS-WWF.
“We are actively looking for sponsors willing to support us in our efforts to conserve endangered marine species, such as marine turtles, and critical habitats in the UAE."
Sea turtles are being threatened by coastal development, climate change, harvesting of turtle eggs at nesting beaches, pollution and being accidentally caught in fisheries.
Manal Ataya, director general of Sharjah Museums Department, said it was the role of museums and aquariums to educate the public about the need to act as custodians of the environment.
“Sharjah Museums Department is reaching out to the community to spread awareness of the need to ensure a sustainable future for our precious marine resources," she said.
Image by: thenational.ae