In the UAE, sea turtles in distress are getting a helping hand

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) The baby sea turtle flapped its flippers as it was lowered into the ocean, only to be driven ashore by the strong tide. She tried again, and she did it this time, swimming fast and deep in the waters of the Persian Gulf that lap a series of beachside resort towns.

Scientists hope the turtle will thrive again in its natural habitat, joining some 500 sea turtles that have been rescued, rehabilitated and released since the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency launched a program three years ago to help turtles afflicted by climate change and other problems.

In the latest release in early June, approximately 80 turtles were taken to the seashore by members of Wildlife Rescue Program agencies, along with community members. Many have been equipped with satellite tracking equipment to help scientists better understand migration patterns and the success of rehabilitation methods.

A girl carries a sea turtle to be released on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A girl carries a sea turtle to be released on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, UAE, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Members of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency's Wildlife Rescue program carry a sea turtle to be released in Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable to Due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures.  Many have been equipped with satellite tracking equipment to help scientists better understand migration patterns and the success of rehabilitation methods.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Members of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency’s Wildlife Rescue program carry a sea turtle to be released in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable to Due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures. Many have been equipped with satellite tracking equipment to help scientists better understand migration patterns and the success of rehabilitation methods. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Kamran Jebreili/AP

A man pushes a sea turtle into the water during a turtle release program in Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, UAE is working to protect the creatures.  Many have been equipped with satellite tracking equipment to help scientists better understand migration patterns and the success of rehabilitation methods.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
A man pushes a sea turtle into the water during a turtle release program in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, UAE is working to protect the creatures. Many have been equipped with satellite tracking equipment to help scientists better understand migration patterns and the success of rehabilitation methods. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Kamran Jebreili/AP

A girl reacts during the sea turtle release program on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A girl reacts during the sea turtle release program on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Turtles have historically been hunted for their meat and eggs, with their shells used in jewelry. But many man-made factors figure in a decline in all seven sea turtle species.

We see problems like plastic pollution causing damage, ship strikes, nets getting them entangled and coastal development, which reduces the amount of nesting habitat they have available, says Hind al-Ameri, assistant scientist at the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency.

Climate change is a big contributor, researchers say.

As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures. Turtles that wash ashore in Abu Dhabi are rescued, rehabilitated and then released into the ocean. A program run by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency claims to have rescued 800 sea turtles in its three years of existence. (June 29) (AP Video: Malak Harb/Baraa Anwer)

Ocean warming damage coral reefs, which turtles need to survive, and shift currents to expose turtles to new predators. Sea level rise decreases the beaches where turtles nest and lay their eggs.

Abu Dhabi is not the only agency in the Emirates committed to helping sea turtles. Emirates Nature-WWF launched a pair of marine conservation initiatives more than a decade ago, studying the behavior of hawksbill and green turtles in the region.

Anne Valentina, Education and Conservation Officer, weighs a sea turtle at the Abu Dhabi National Aquarium Marine Rehabilitation Center in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. The turtles washing ashore in Abu Dhabi are rescued, rehabilitated and then released back into the ocean.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Anne Valentina, head of education and conservation, weighs a sea turtle at the marine rehabilitation center of the Abu Dhabi National Aquarium in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Sea turtles swim in a tank inside the Abu Dhabi National Aquarium Marine Rehabilitation Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Turtles washing ashore in Abu Dhabi are being rescued, rehabilitated and then released into the ocean.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Sea turtles swim in a tank inside the Abu Dhabi National Aquarium marine rehabilitation center in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

And the Dubai turtle rehabilitation project has been helping sick and injured sea turtles for nearly two decades, rehabilitating and returning more than 2,000 turtles to the Persian Gulf in that time.

Scientists say they see evidence that sea turtles are adapting to climate change.

Turtle gender is influenced by the temperature in which the eggs develop, with warmer temperatures producing a higher ratio of female turtles. Al-Ameri said conditions in the UAE have gotten so hot that the male population should be devastated, but they are healthy and reproducing.

Children comfort a sea turtle to be released at a hotel on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, the UAE is working to protect the creatures.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Children comfort a sea turtle to release it at a hotel on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

So it’s pushing us to understand why our species are adapting as they are and what that would mean in terms of climate change and whether turtles would be able to adapt to climate change in the future or not, he said.

How the planet can limit global warming and its harmful effects on sea turtles and the rest of the world will be discussed at length in November when Dubai hosts the upcoming United Nations summit on climate change.

A sea turtle wades through the water during a turtle release program on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. As sea turtles around the world become more vulnerable due to climate change, the Emirati UAE are working to protect the creatures.  (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A sea turtle wades through the water during a turtle release program on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, UAE, on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

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