When “Moonlight”, a green turtle weighing in at 31kg, pops up to the surface for a breather, her satellite tag will emit her location to automatically help the team track her whereabouts. Dubai: A batch of sea turtles found their way back to the sea with a helping hand and little bit more on Tuesday when a team from the Turtle Rehabilitation Unit released 23 hawksbill turtles and two green turtles, all with flipper tags and one with a satellite tag. When “Moonlight”, a green turtle weighing in at 31kg, pops up to the surface for a breather, her satellite tag will emit her location to automatically help the team track her whereabouts. Her movements will also help teach the scientific community more about this threatened species.
Sabri, the other green turtle, a heavyweight in comparison at 110kg, and the 23 much smaller hawksbill turtles, have had metallic tags with identification numbers clipped to a front flipper. “Tagging them certainly helps us know more about what happens and where they go although we haven’t tagged enough yet to see any pattern,” said Wildlife Protection Office ecologist Kevin Hyland. Hyland said none of the turtles tagged and released in previous years had come back, which was a good sign. “The bigger the population the less chance there is of retrieving them,” Hyland said. “This is the third turtle we’ve put a satellite tag on. “The first one exploded the theory that the population was contained in the Gulf when it travelled past Pakistan. “Dibba, another tagged turtle, travelled 8,000km to Thailand. It is a curious thought that something that is happening in Dubai could impact the Indonesian population. It gives us a global picture.”
Burj Al Arab Aquarium Operations Manager Warren Baverstock said 90 were released last year. The Burj Al Arab has played a big role in the rehabilitation of the turtles. “We release them when they are better but also when the weather permits and we have a boat to take them out,” he said. The turtles are taken to the rehabilitation unit when they wash up on shore, covered with barnacles. During winter turtles slowed down as the sea temperatures dropped, giving molluscs and barnacles opportunity to latch on to the carapace, which could often end up weighing more than the turtle. Some turtles came in with barnacles covering their mouth, making it impossible for them to feed. “The public has been really great in alerting us to turtles washing up,” Baverstock said. “We need them to keep contacting us and most importantly don’t try to remove the barnacles – just hand them over to us.”
You can follow the turtle’s whereabouts thanks to their satellite tags by logging on http://www.seaturtle.org and keep up with the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Unit on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/turtle.rehabilitation