Middle East sheik takes a turtle for a swim

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is better known for his love of horses than his affinity for sea life. But the Dubai sheik’s new video posted on his junior wife’s Instagram account may change that. The short clip, posted by Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, shows the United Arab Emirates (UAE) VP and Prime Minister and Emir of Dubai releasing a giant sea turtle into the Arabian Gulf.

His video co-star appears to be a Hawksbill turtle, native to the Middle East. It’s captured nearly 44,000 views and hundreds of positive comments.

sheik mohammed hawksbill turtle

Last May, the Emirates Wildlife Society in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) launched a groundbreaking initiative for marine conservation, called the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation aimed at conserving endangered marine turtles and vulnerable marine habitats in both the UAE and wider region.

This project picked up from the success of the 2010 to 2014 Marine Turtle Conservation Project, wherein EWS-WWF tracked the travels of 75 female Hawksbill turtles from Qatar, Iran, Oman, and the UAE in order to identify Important Turtle Areas (ITAs) for marine turtle conservation. Their findings have been incorporated as a fundamental component of the UAE’s marine conservation agenda.

See the Sheik’s new swim partner in the clip below:

Sea turtles are vulnerable to climate change, industrialization, and the negative effects of coastal development. According to the project website, the rapidly declining global sea turtle population is threatened with extinction, and critical measures are urgently needed to safeguard the few remaining turtle nesting, feeding and breeding sites on beaches and at sea; as well as their migratory pathways.

Two out of the seven species of marine turtles (sea turtles), the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), occur in Gulf waters. Worldwide, the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2008) lists the hawksbill turtle as critically endangered and the green turtle as endangered. At the local and regional level the stocks of these species are threatened and the number of foraging habitats and nesting grounds are continually declining.

Marine turtles are the ambassadors of our seas; they act as an indicator of the health of our marine environment. Unlike Costa Rica, where tourists stupidly swarm to nesting areas to watch the annual turtle migrations, the UAE has been at the forefront of marine conservation. In fact, several of its top luxury hotels employ fulltime biologists to manage their robust programs of environmental initiatives.

To learn how you can support this program, visit the EWS-WWF website (link here).

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