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QU protects hawksbill turtles through Qatar Turtle Project | Qatar University

QU protects hawksbill turtles through Qatar Turtle Project

Turtle with the satellite transmitter - Halul Island – Photo Credit Shafeeq Hamza

Sea turtles are a group of reptiles that have adapted to live in the sea and are one of the most ancient creatures on planet Earth. Scientists recognize seven living species of sea turtles that live in our oceans today, including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. With funding from Qatar Petroleum (QP), The Environmental Science Center (ESC) at Qatar University (QU) is currently implementing the Qatar Turtle Project to protect Qatar’s hawksbill turtles. This project is one of the top-priority projects for the two institutions towards preserving Qatar’s wildlife and a commitment to nature, which is run by Project Leader Professor Dr. Hamad Al-Saad Al-Kuwari, Director of the ESC along with a specialist team and technicians at the center. Since 2002, QP and QU have been studying hawksbill turtles in the Qatari coasts and working to restore these turtle populations and their habitat based on the best scientific evidence.

The conservation of sea turtles is an essential part of the ecological balance, which is achieved by the survival of the components and elements of the natural environment as they are. Unfortunately, human interventions have significantly altered the environmental balance, which has led to many negative impacts on terrestrial and coastal habitats due to abuse such as increasing population, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation.

The study of the hawksbill turtles this year includes the study of nesting beaches of Fuwairit, Al Mafyar, Al Ghariyah, Al Maroona and Al Huwailah. These beaches were supervised by a scientific team from the ESC in cooperation with a team of observers from the Ministry of Municipality and Environment. In addition, the study of hawksbill turtles included four Qatari islands, including the faraway islands of Halul and Sharaouh and the nearby islands including Umm Tais and Ras Rakkan. The island study is implemented and supervised by a specialist team led by Field Director at the ESC Dr. Jassim Abdulla A Al-Khayat.

“This year, for the first time, the project included the deployment of satellite transmitters on a number of hawksbill turtles in Halul Island to track their movements and behavior in the Gulf,” says Shafeeq Hamza, Researcher at ESC who has been working with the Qatar Turtle project since 2009. The nesting beaches in Halul Island are well fenced and guarded by the Halul Offshore management. With continuing cooperation and joint efforts of institutions, the hope is that this critically endangered species will thrive on the shores of Qatar.

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