Bulletin 24 - November 1984: Recent Turtle Records

Recent Turtle Records

by J.N.B. Brown

10th February 1984

A medium-sized Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) was found beached at Da'biyah (Zubaya) near the Decca Station by Rob Western. Though it was tired and even apparently sickly while on land, it swam off vigorously when returned to the water. When found, it was three-quarters covered by sand as if stranded by the tide. The straight length of the carapace was approximately 30cm.

27th February 1984

A large Green Turtle was found on the Khor Kalba beach close to a fisherman's hut. It was badly decayed but the following measurements were taken:

Carapace length (straight) 86cm
width (straight) 61cm
Tail 28cm
Flipper front 38cm
rear 19cm
Head/neck (snout to carapace) 28 cm
28th February 1984

A medium-sized Green Turtle was found upside down on the beach near Jazirat Badiyah, between Khor Fakkan and Dibba. While taking photographs, I saw it move. Once turned over, it flapped vigorously, but was obviously suffering the effects of the hot sun and its inverted position. An old fisherman appeared and half-heartedly suggested it was good for eating. He realized I wasn't interested and after a short discussion agreed to return it to the water. It rested for a few minutes in the ripples of the incoming tide and then swam out to sea without a backward glance. I had been so concerned with its return to its natural habitat that I forgot to take the essential measurements.

9th March 1984

A medium-sized turtle was seen swimming in the open sea ten miles off Abu Dhabi. From photographs taken by Diane Donohue, it was tentatively identified as a Green Turtle.

11th April 1984

Nick Jepson reported a large unidentified turtle in 60 feet of water alongside a pipeline, just north of the Umm Shaif Super Complex.

13th April 1984

An unidentified turtle with approximate carapace measurements of 50 by 45cm was observed swimming in open water off the southwest end of Das Island. Turtles are regularly spotted off Das in the summer months, reportedly measuring up to 100cm in carapace length. Identification is difficult as they are wary and, after raising their head periscope-fashion, they dive whenever approached. Small ones are occasionally trapped in fishermen's drift nets. As recently as 1980, turtles could be seen on sandy beaches around Das early on summer mornings, and on occasion eggs were collected. It is not know whether female still visit the island to lay eggs.

April - May 1984

Ian Foxall reported turtles landing on offshore islands. The first tracks were seen on 10th April and fresh ones recorded up to 28th May. Approximately 40 nests or possible nest sites were counted. No young turtles were observed so it is not known how successful the breeding was.

20th July 1984

One dead loggerhead turtle was recorded at Dab'iyah by Mike Bird. The carapace measured 93 by 70.5cm. It remains buried on site in the hope of recovering parts of the skeleton at a later date. Although there was a considerable amount of thick bituminous oil on the beach, the creature did not appear to be oiled.

Our records prove that at least two species of turtle, the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the Green (Chelonia mydas) are still inhabiting Gulf waters, though probably in reduced numbers. If some conservation measures were introduced to protect their habitats and breeding grounds, they might increase in number to be a useful resource. Nests on offshore islands are still regularly robbed by fishermen to obtain the eggs for food. This, together with the development and industrialization of several offshore island and known mainland breeding areas, is probably leading to the overall decline in turtle numbers.


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