The first Hawksbill turtle nest was discovered on Tuesday, April 22 – the internationally-celebrated Earth Day – by the Environmental Services team at the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), master developer of major tourism, cultural and residential destinations in Abu Dhabi. Located on Saadiyat Beach, the nest marks the start of highly-anticipated nesting season on the island.
Hawksbill turtles nest on a number of islands in the UAE, with Saadiyat’s deep sand beaches and natural dune system beyond the high tide line providing them with a perfect nesting habitat. Just how long turtles have been nesting on Saadiyat is unknown, however after 30 years, breeding females return to their birth place to establish nests, which can contain between 90 and 100 eggs. Each discovered nest will be clearly marked to ensure hotel guests, beach visitors and staffs don’t disturb them, with hatching expected within 50 to 70 days. The turtles and their nests will also be observed closely by TDIC’s Environmental Services team as part of the company’s Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme, the only one of its kind in the Arabian Gulf.
“We’re pleased to once again welcome Hawksbill turtles to Saadiyat for their nesting season. Their continued return is a testament to the great efforts of our Environmental Services team as well as the company as a whole, which complement the Abu Dhabi Government’s commitment to protecting the emirate’s unique environment,” said Ali Al Hammadi, the Deputy Managing Director at TDIC.
The Hawksbill is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, as its population has declined by more than 80 per cent worldwide over the last three generations due to habitat destruction and poaching. TDIC has taken serious steps to ensure the protection of Saadiyat’s coastal dune system and the safety of the hawksbill turtles that come to shore every year to lay its eggs. As a result, TDIC restricts resort development on Saadiyat Beach to at least 60 metres back from the seaward edge of the coastal dunes, creating a buffer zone which serves as a physical barrier between construction and operations and the Saadiyat Dune Protection Zone nesting beach. Part of the Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme, this ensures that the turtles continue to nest even during the construction and operations of projects on the island.
Strong lights and noise may distract the baby turtles, causing them to head in the wrong direction and away from the sea. This has led TDIC to take further measures including lighting guidelines and assessments of operational developments, and a dedicated environmental resource that monitors and audits properties operating on Saadiyat. For example, during the nesting season, night lighting is reduced to aid the baby turtles’ orientation towards the sea; nests are logged and avoided by beach maintenance crews, and all beach furniture is moved off the beach at night.
TDIC also requests its residents on Saadiyat Beach to help ensure the continuation and safety of the turtles’ nesting activities by asking them to switch off outdoor lights when they are not outside, close their curtains at night to minimise light spill, refrain from going to the beach after dark and avoid turtle tracks so they can be recorded by TDIC.
“We’re very proud that Saadiyat Beach continues to be a thriving environment for the island’s inhabitants, including our annual visitors, the Hawksbill turtles. This all due to our continuous efforts with our operators and stakeholders, through various initiatives and activities, to preserve the island’s ecosystem even as it is being developed,” said Dr Nathalie Staelens, Head of Environmental Services at TDIC.
As a result of the company’s enhanced efforts, Saadiyat Beach received the prestigious Blue Flag certification last year. The Blue Flag is a prestigious international recognition which is awarded to beaches and marinas that follow strict criteria regarding water quality, environmental management, safety, site facilities and environmental education. The programme is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and the Emirati Wildlife Society-EWS-WWF is the National Coordinator of the Blue Flag programme in the UAE.
On Saadiyat, four leisure and tourism properties are a part of the Blue Flag – Saadiyat Public Beach managed by BAKE, Monte-Carlo Beach Club, Saadiyat, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort & Spa, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas. TDIC is working closely with its operators on the island to make sure that Saadiyat Beach continues to be managed and maintained up to the best standards such as maintaining water quality, publishing the water quality results on a board that can be seen by visitors, providing a number of recycling bins on site and arranging for educational activities. The Blue Flag requires its grantees to arrange for at least five activities on environmental education throughout the year.
Guidelines for the Hawksbill turtles’ nesting season on Saadiyat
Do’s when you see a turtle or a nest:
- Report to the nearest beach front property or to Saadiyat Security on 024036393
- Keep a safe distance from nesting turtles so as not to disturb them
- Wait for Saadiyat Security or a TDIC representative to provide details of your observations
- Place lost turtle hatchlings in the sea when you come across one, and report to Saadiyat Security immediately
Don’ts when you see a turtle or a nest:
- Don’t frighten the nesting turtle by coming too near
- Don’t wipe out the turtle tracks or evidence of digging activities
- Don’t go near the nest or enter the fenced area around known nests
- Don’t walk on the beach after sunset
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Monday, April 28- 2014 @ 14:35 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.