Abu Dhabi, 10th June 2024: In line with the Year of Sustainability, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in partnership with The National Aquarium (TNA) and The Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Center (YSWRRC) has released a group of Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead rehabilitated turtles into their natural habitats, via the beach at Jumeirah Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi. The National Aquarium oversaw the rehabilitation of 200 turtles while the YSWRRC rehabilitated a group of 14 Hawkbill turtles.

The first release of the turtles took place on 6th June and was attended by Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Secretary General, Fouad Mashal, President and Vice Chairman of Al Barakah Holding on behalf of The National Aquarium, Capt. Saif Al Mheiri, Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Maritime, Shaikha Al Nowais, Vice President Owner Relationship Management, Rotana, Mr. Sabri Mohammed Aljabri, General Manager of Shared Facilities Company of Taweelah (SFCO), Taghrid Alsaeed, the Executive Director,  Group Communications and Destination Marketing from Miral and Thomas Kaferle, SeaWorld® Yas Island, Abu Dhabi General Manager.

On 8th June there was a second release attended by the general public which was held at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas that involved a series of fun activations.

The release of the turtles is a culmination of the rescue and rehabilitation programme of EAD in collaboration with The National Aquarium since a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in 2020 with a total of 1067 turtles being rescued. EAD also signed an MoU with YSWRRC in 2023, rescuing a group of 23 turtles.

Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Secretary General on the occasion said: “It is always exciting when it is that time of the year where we release turtles back into their natural habitat. It reveals that all our rescue and rehabilitation programmes, whether in partnership with The National Aquarium or The Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Center have been a great success. This cohort of turtles are a large number of 214 which will allow us to continue building a stable and abundant population of turtles in Abu Dhabi waters. We give special care to the turtles and we do all this work so that we are preserving our marine species for future generations so that they can enjoy a flourishing environment.”

She added: “I would like to thank the public and volunteers who have assisted us in rescuing these vulnerable species and our partners who have helped rehabilitate the turtles prior to us releasing them. We greatly appreciate the dedication of the teams ensuring that the turtles get the best possible care.”

Fouad Mashal, President and Vice Chairman of Al Barakah Holding said: “Today is a special day for The National Aquarium as we are returning turtle number 1000 back to the wild. This milestone marks an incredible effort by the team at The National Aquarium who have rescued, rehabilitated and released such a huge number of turtles, making this project one of the most successful in the world. The entire process of turtle number 1000’s rescue and eventual release can be followed on The National Aquarium Instagram page @thenationalaq. The family responsible for the rescue of turtle number 1000 were present for an emotional and symbolic farewell.”   

SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi General Manager, Thomas Kaferle, said: “We are extremely proud of our partnership with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Today, we celebrate a significant milestone: our contribution to the rehabilitation and release of Hawksbill turtles back into their natural habitat on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. This achievement underscores our commitment to establishing The Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center as the region's largest dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation, and return facility. Our goal is to leverage our world-class facility and SeaWorld’s 60 years of experience not only to rehabilitate and return these animals but also to support the vision of creating a sustainable future for generations to come.”


EAD has been researching, monitoring and protecting marine turtles in Abu Dhabi since 1999 and has succeeded in maintaining a stable population in Abu Dhabi waters. There are four main marine turtle species in Abu Dhabi – both Green Turtles and Hawksbills frequent the emirate’s waters, while Olive Ridley and Loggerheads are occasional visitors.

Decades of research by EAD indicate that several turtles can show signs of cold stunning – a condition in which sea turtles become very weak and inactive from exposure to cold temperatures and therefore become lethargic and are eventually unable to swim causing them to float on the surface of the water. In some cases, cold stunning can also lead to a build-up of barnacles on their shells, which hampers the turtle’s ability to move, hence EAD’s  keenness to save them, nurture them back to life and then release them back into their habitats.

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