Sea turtle nests spotted on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island
The first nests of the season of critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles have been spotted on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island.
The nests are under the observation of Tourism Development & Investment Company’s (TDIC) environmental affairs team, as part of the company's Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme, the only one of its kind in the Arabian Gulf.
The nests, which can contain between 90 and 100 eggs, have been clearly marked to ensure people don't disturb them with hatching expected within
"The yearly return of the turtles is testament to the success of this conservation programme, which was designed to ensure that as hotels became operational on Saadiyat Beach, the turtles would continue to choose the island as their nesting ground," said HE Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.
"This conservation programme, which was personally initiated by our Chairman, HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, clearly demonstrates that tourism assets can be developed without damaging the environment and conversely, can actually be used to protect a destination’s environmental assets."
The nine kilometre Saadiyat Beach plays host to several Hawksbill turtle nests every year. 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’s Hawksbill turtle conservation programme has seen the company restrict resort development on Saadiyat Beach to at least 60m 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.
Since the monitoring programme began early 2010, some 650 eggs have hatched successfully on Saadiyat. Turtles continued to nest even during the construction of the now open The St Regis Saadiyat Island and Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi; the Monte Carlo Beach Club and the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
Operational guidelines further protect the nesting sites by restricting beach access to pedestrians who reach the beach via elevated boardwalks, which prevent people from walking through the delicate dune system and potentially disturbing the nests.
Other TDIC measures for the protection of the Saadiyat coastal dune system cover lighting guidelines and assessments of operational developments, and a dedicated environmental resource that monitors and audits properties operating on Saadiyat.