Why Oman is a great place to be an endangered turtle

BGreen looks at one of the Gulf state’s success stories: its efforts to protect the Green Turtle

PHOTO: Four main species of turtles nest in Oman, including green turtles. Credit: Brocken Inaglory / Wikipedia

An estimated 60,000 green turtle eggs are laid each year on the beaches of Oman, by an estimated 20,000 females, which makes the Sultante the top country for nesting round the Indian Ocean.

Except for Ras al Jinz, Oman has closed all the 275 turtle nesting beaches on its coastline in order to protect their habitat as they are one of the ocean’s most endangered creatures.

Four main species of turtles nest in Oman: Green turtles, Olive Ridley turtles, Hawksbill turtles and Loggerhead turtles. A fifth species called Leatherback turtles also live and feed in the waters adjacent to the coasts of the Sultanate.

Green turtles are the fastest swimming turtle – reaching up to 32 km – they can hold their breath underwater for more than two hours and live up to 80 years, growing to a shell length of more than a metre and weighing more than 180 kg.

The specie is listed as endangered by the IUCN and CITES and is protected from exploitation in most countries of the world. Around 100 people attend the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre – 300km from the capital Muscat – where each night between July and December, they watch females crawl up the beach above the tide line, lay between 100 and 200 eggs, cover them with sand using her flippers then return to the sea. Eggs hatch after 45 to 75 days and the young turtles instinctively head for the ocean.

Until last year hundreds of people a night who made the journey to Ras Al Jinz were disappointed because all viewing is overseen by a guide and visitors have to book in advance and only 100 a night were allowed – in groups of 20.

But from last month the rules have been relaxed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs where another 100 persons can be accommodated to see these turtles.

“We used to take 100 people in five batches at 9pm and 4am. But now we have started taking an additional 100 people in batches at 10pm,” Vijay Handa, the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre general manager told the Times of Oman.

“I went twice during the peak summer season and was denied entry since it was full. Both the times I made the mistake of not booking earlier,” said S. Thomas, an Indian expatriate working in Muscat told the Times.

Handa said that the increased capacity is mainly due to hotels which are situated in and around Sur.

“Besides, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has started opening up Ras Al Hadd to see turtles if there are too many bookings at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve Centre. Though it is not a guided tour, the visitors here can see turtles for themselves,” Handa said.

And tourists can now stay in eco-friendly tents with all the modern amenities, which overlook the sea from hilltops a stone’s throw from the main reserve site. Tents are supplied by EcoStructures Australia and are first of their kind in Oman.


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