When you’re stuck in the middle of a crowded, noisy city like Cairo, where waste piles up on the side of the street, and you can’t manage to peel back what you hope is a mirage of decrepit buildings to reveal the earth below, let the hawksbill turtle inspire you.
Undisturbed by light pollution from beach development projects, such as Urjuan in Qatar, and following an ancient wisdom dialed into their DNA, they lay their eggs and follow the moonlight back to the ocean from whence they came.
This is what they have always done. But now, like the green turtle, they have the dubious distinction of making it on to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s endangered list; light pollution is among their biggest threats. Impediments to their food source, meanwhile, could also jeopardize their ability to reproduce.
Dr. Nicholas Pilcher is the Executive Director for the Marine Research Foundation. In an article for The National, he explained to Vesela Todorova that “females expend a vast amount of energy, not only nesting, but in the physiological development of the egg follicles, then creating the albumen…” In order to preserve that energy, they need to be well fed, so it is essential that their foraging grounds are kept safe.
However, until now, it has not been clear where they foraged. Some scientists believed that Iranian turtles plied Iranian waters, while Qatari turtles stayed close to their own shores, according to Lisa Perry, the Program director for the Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS).
But recent efforts by EWS and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to tag 20 Middle Eastern turtles dispelled that assumption.
Initially tagged in Oman, turtle # 53003 “went straight into the Gulf, towards Qatar, where we know some foraging grounds exist,” Ms Perry said. Two Iranian turtles are gallivanting off the coast of Qatar, while turtles from the United Arab Emirates are the region’s homebodies.
Rich in oil and gas and bidding for the 2022 World Cup, demonstrative of its enormous economic growth, Qatar’s southern coast, “close to the Saudi and UAE borders, is an important foraging ground” according to Dr Pilcher.
What impact this new knowledge will have on development in the area is not known, but we hope that the study will breed important policies aimed at protection, rather than habitat devastation.
:: images and story via The National
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