Tuesday, December 06, 2022 | Jumada al-ula 11, 1444 H
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Death of young turtles raise a stink in Al Wusta Wetlands


They were killed due to the pollution of either their food or habitat. Further investigations could reveal the exact cause of the death of these turtles

Text and photos by

Dr Jackson Achankunju

It was an unusual saddening sight when I noticed more than a dozen dead turtles within a stretch of 200 metres, along the Al Wusta Wetlands of the Sultanate of Oman.

I was on my research mission to study the seaweed diversity across the southern governorates of the Sultanate Oman. The obnoxious smell in the wetland caused me to look around for its source.

The Al Wusta Wetlands that overlook Masirah, the largest island of the country, also serves as a spot for the nesting and feeding of Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Green turtles. It is interesting to note that five out of the seven species of marine turtles in the world are found in the Sultanate of Oman. Four of them are nestling turtles namely Green Turtle (Sul Hafah Al Khuthera), Loggerheads (Rimani) and Olive Ridley (Al Sherfaf) and Hawksbill (Al Zaytooni) and the other one called Leatherback (Al Niml) which is a visiting turtle. Most of the dead bodies found there were of young turtles, which points to the fact that they were killed due to the pollution of either their food or habitat.

This is disheartening and it needs to be seriously considered. Turtles play an important role in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. It has added value to the Sultanate Oman as it plays an important role in tourism.

The Al Wusta Wetlands are one of the biodiversity hotspots in the Sultanate of Oman. This place is noted as the main stopover site for migratory shorebirds during the winter in the Africa-Eurasian Flyway. Its complex ecosystems and unique biodiversity make it one of the most important and rare sites for the study of wetland ecology. This region which has been hidden from the tourist’s eye is a relatively pristine coastal area of global importance.

According to the Ramson convention, 35 per cent of the wetlands are lost since 1970 and a quarter of its endemic species risk extinction worldwide. By 2050, one-third of the world population is expected to struggle with excessive concentrations of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in wetlands and all other aquatic ecosystems.

Further investigations and necropsies of these dead bodies may be undertaken by the authorities concerned so that they could reveal the exact cause of the death of these turtles. Corrective measures if taken at the right time could prevent further loss of these endangered yet highly significant genetic resources of the Sultanate of Oman. Conserving the biodiversity of the land where we live in is the responsibility of every person.

The author is member, Royal Society of Biology, London and Asst. Professor of Biology & Researcher in Biodiversity, A’Sharqiyah University, Sultanate of Oman

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