by MARET MURZABEKOVA
Every year, between April and August, thousands of people flock to Oman to meet baby turtles during the hatching season as they make their way to the waters of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s an equivalent to a spectacular evening show — fully enjoyed at night, and guests get the front row seats. With that said, protecting these creatures and their environment is a fundamental duty.
Speaking with Rumaitha Al Busaidi, Executive Board Member at the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), about five out of the seven species of sea turtles gliding through Omani waters and beaches are threatened, with classifications ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. It’s important for locals and tourists to practice responsible tourist behaviour to ensure the sustainability of these turtle populations.
“Locals and tourists while heading out to enjoy this experience, should keep in mind expressing appreciation for nature by minimising human impact and maintaining the integrity of the area” said Rumaitha, adding that visitors are advised to listen to the instructions by the local guides very carefully when stopping by a turtle nest, and most importantly keep litter away and avoid the use of any type of lights, as this is the number one cause of disturbance for turtles while nesting.
Most of the turtles return to the same beach each time they are ready to nest. Not only do they appear on the same beach, they often emerge within a few hundred meters of where they last nested. They make their way from the ocean and continue to crawl on the beach until they find the best spot for nesting. Actively using the tips of their paws, they dig a deep hole in the sand to protect the nest from predators. After digging the egg chamber, the female turtle begins to lay eggs.
It’s not a secret that while laying her eggs, sea turtles will likely abort the process of nesting if they are harassed or feel in danger. Luckily, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve in Al Sharqiyah offers turtle-watching tours with carefully selected routes with perfect views of egg-laying and egg-hatching moments. The natural reserve is dedicated to protecting these marine animals from potential threats. Similarly, the ESO emphasises understanding the importance of raising awareness on conserving and saving the turtles from extinction.
“We need people to understand the fragility of the world around us and why it is important to protect what we have. After all, we all want to pass on our experiences with the natural world to our children and , but the fact is what we have experienced may be vanishing and most probably will not exist long enough for them to enjoy” said Rumaitha. “Therefore, environmental awareness proves important for fostering a sense of connection to the natural world, promoting sustainable development and encouraging conservation of irreplaceable natural resources and vulnerable plant and animal species, which ensures a brighter future for generations to come” she added.
If turtle watching is on your list of things to experience in Oman, take caution and help protect the environment. We have to allow the little ones to continue their pilgrimage to the next destination in peace.
Get To Know ESO
The Environment Society of Oman was founded in March 2004 with a vision to help protect and conserve Oman’s natural heritage. As the only environmental NGO in the country, ESO aspires to influence environmentally sustainable behaviour through education, awareness and conservation.
The organisation aims at enabling public involvement in conservation efforts, as well as cooperating with various sectors, securing funds for environmental activities and projects, and collaborating in research on Oman’s biodiversity to help strengthen conservation initiatives.
Currently, ESO is carrying out various marine projects with two of them strictly focused on Oman’s turtle population, in addition to the Renaissance Whale and Dolphin project and the Dimaniyat Islands project that focuses on protecting the marine, terrestrial wildlife and natural resources of the Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve. And, they are actively involved in numerous educational and awareness campaigns, including plastic bags, native tree planting and their annual Inter College Environmental Public Speaking Competition, to name a few.