Heroes in a baby shell: Bon Voyage Little Turtles!

I can not tell you how blessed we felt just two days back when we witnessed the beginning of the incredible journey of tiny little baby turtles at EMEG Ghantoot Reserve! It was an experience of a lifetime! Holding these just hatched cute little babies and then seeing them braving the boundless ocean touched not just our hearts but souls! It was so much to learn from these heroes in a baby shell in such little time we spent with them. These moments created great memories, which we will cherish forever!

On this World Sea Turtle day, I am more than happy to share our one of best Nature experience in UAE!

The turtle nesting season has already started in UAE. So when I got confirmation from EMEG in the morning about the hatching of baby turtles and releasing them to the sea, I knew one exciting evening was ahead of us! In afternoon I dug our bookshelf to find a book about turtles I received as a gift many years back. This made in UAE book by Michael Molnar with the support of EMEG; Shiree: The life of a green sea turtle is the best children’s book to let them know about local turtles. I read it to Ruhaan to prepare him for the evening and then there were a lot of questions kept coming in about baby turtles.

Emirates Marine Environmental Group

At EMEG reserve, first, the turtles were weighed and measured to keep a record of each baby turtle. All the kids and families were doing this job along with EMEG’s Major Ali. Then he took all the guests to show a documentary movie about EMEG’s amazing work over the years and what projects their team of marine biologist undertook.  I am so grateful to Major Ali, who makes sure to show this video to each group visiting EMEG, as this help children to get inspiration about an incredible job of a marine biologist, which otherwise they hardly get an exposure to. Emirates Marine Environmental Group is such a great non-profit organization, since 1996 they are continuing their work of conserving marine life, mangroves and happily accommodating members of the public, what a great way of raising awareness. This is the place in UAE, like Major Ali says, where you don’t have to pay but what you get to see is a real beauty of Dubai!

EMEG’s Major Ali measuring turtles with kids before the release

Readers if you remember, Sustainability Tribe organized a mangrove field trip at EMEG to celebrate Earth Hour this year thanks to the lovely staff of EMEG, which unfortunately got canceled because of heavy rains (read here). Hopefully, we can organize something again.

And here is my another amazing experience of mangrove planting at EMEG reserve, click to read.

Secret Lives of Hawksbill Turtles

Before I share our amazing experience hawksbill turtle release, let me share all the facts I gathered about them. Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered species and listed on IUCN’s red list. During nesting season adult female Hawksbill turtles come to the beach, digs a nest, lays eggs (around 60 to 200), covers the nest with sand and returns back to sea leaving the eggs behind.

The eggs remain buried under sand for 60 days of incubation period before they hatch. Once they hatch all these baby turtles come out of the nest with the help of each other and crawl to the sea! The male hawksbill turtles once born on the beach and leave for sea never returns back to the land and spend all their life in the sea. The female hawksbill turtles come back to the beach only when they are adults and nesting.

One amazing fact Major Ali told us that while releasing baby turtles to sea, we are not supposed to release them in water but a few meters away from water. Because these turtles make a mind map of the beach and if they are females they return to the same beach for nesting when they grow up!

How these hawksbill turtles became critically endangered? The beautiful carapace (shell)s of these turtles known as ‘tortoiseshell’ were used worldwide in jewelry, comb, brushes, souvenirs and even in traditional wedding dresses in Japan. Apart from hunting, coastal development resulted in the loss of habitat for their nests and injuries by fishing gears, boats are some of the reason their population decreased. Now, even though turtle hunting is illegal most of the places, plastic rubbish is the biggest threat to the turtles. Click here to read the post about rescued turtles in Sharjah.

Turtles eat jellyfish and plastic bags look so much like jellyfish when in water. There are regular incidences where turtle get suffocated when they ingest plastic bags, plastic straw. Therefore it’s very important to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life. Read here how you can reduce plastic waste with the help of reusable items in your daily routine.

Hawksbill turtles are most endangered species in turtles and we definitely don’t want that. Don’t forget to join our #ZeroWasteUAE Initiative to reduce waste(click to read).

Beautiful shell of Hawksbill Baby Turtle

Another reason of reducing the population of hawksbill turtles is these eggs left alone on the beach and become the target of other wild animals. Like in UAE, foxes feast on turtle eggs on the beach. So out of all the eggs laid very few make it to the sea. Even in the sea, predators attack these baby turtles. This is where EMEG’s work help conserving hawksbill turtles. The EMEG staff patrols the beach regularly and protects the nests by creating an enclosure or carefully move the eggs to their dedicated fenced enclosures. Then they look after the safe release of baby turtles to the sea.

 

 

Our Turtle Release Experience

This time 97 baby hawksbill turtles hatched after being overdue for 11 days. The turtles were taken to the most pristine beach after children measured weighed them. Major Ali handed the parents baby turtles to release them. Kids, grown up were all excited and so much love was in the air for these baby turtles. The turtles were hatched during the days and are supposed to release at the time of sunset. The sunset colors, pristine beach, roaring ocean and crawling baby turtles was such a heavenly sight!

Once you release these little turtles they smell sea water and then start crawling towards the sea. It can take as long as even half an hour but we need to be patient and give them time to make a mindmap of the beach, remember the female turtles are going to come back on the same beach. Once they reach water, these brave guys just jump in and start swimming! Nature is so wonderful and there is so much beauty around us if we just pause and look around.

Plus the fact that we were waving bye to the male baby turtles who are leaving the land for forever and we might not meet them again. All I could feel that time was a safe journey to these baby turtles!

Ruhaan particularly enjoyed this experience, it was lovely to see him act like a responsible big boy taking care of these baby turtles. He even named each of them. After the first turtle started swimming in the ocean, he said bye and immediately came to me to tell me ‘Mumma I miss Shanon’. The baby turtles and kids on that beach were cuteness overload!

Those speechless moments were engraved in our hearts, it’s not every day you get to witness the miracle of Nature!

After reaching home Ruhaan has been talking about turtles since two days. He even made a few drawings about turtle release and love to tell the story of baby turtles to everyone he is meeting these days. He is now loving more the green turtle soft toy by WWF, which we got when we adopted a sea turtle through EWS-WWF program many years back. (Read here about marine turtle adoption). I always wanted Ruhaan to witness turtle release, so it was dream come true for me. I believe we need to give our children more experiences and less stuff if we want them to grow into environmentally conscious and mindful grown ups.

 

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2 Comments on "Heroes in a baby shell: Bon Voyage Little Turtles!"

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What an amazing experience! I remember witnessing the same in South Africa as a small child and it made such an impression on me.

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I am a Sustainability Professional. I have worked on many green building projects in the

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