Hawksbill sea turtles
Saadiyat Beach, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Saadiyat Island’s original ‘guests’, hawksbill sea turtles continue to nest on this pristine island’s sweeping beachfront, thanks in no small part to incredible conservation efforts by master developer, Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), who began its Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme – the only one of its kind in the Arabian Gulf – in early 2010. While no one knows just how long these turtles have been nesting on Saadiyat, breeding hawksbill females continue to return to their birthplace to lay their eggs after 30 years.
The nine-kilometre Saadiyat Beach is home to several hawksbill turtle nests each year, with each nest containing around 90 to 100 eggs. Ensuring the turtles and their eggs are safe is vital, which is why pedestrian access to the beach is provided via elevated boardwalks, preventing people from walking through the delicate dune system and potentially disturbing turtles’ nests. Bright lights and noise may also distract baby turtles, making them head in the wrong direction and away from the sea. During nesting season, night lighting is reduced to aid the baby turtles’ orientation, nests are logged, beach maintenance crews steer clear of nests, and all beach furniture is moved off the beach at night.