Muscat: The preservation of turtle species in Ras al Hadd Reserve and other reserves in the Sultanate of Oman is significantly upheld by the Environment Authority. This responsibility is underscored by the initiation of the Turtle Commando Programme in 2021; a comprehensive initiative focused on the protection, management, and vigilant oversight of sea turtles.
Saleh al Abri, who holds a supervisory role within the Turtle Commando Programme, elucidates their operational procedures. Their duties commence at 7 pm, a critical time when individuals are guided away from the beach, and stringent measures are taken to curtail the use of intense illumination along the shoreline. Specifically, only red-light sources are allowed due to their minimal impact on young turtles.
Al Abri further emphasises the rationale behind these measures. He highlights that young turtles, upon hatching, inherently rely on the moon's natural light to guide them from their nesting sites to the ocean.
This instinctual behaviour ensures their successful transition into their marine habitat. However, the intrusion of artificial lights severely disrupts this natural process. The presence of non-natural illumination leads to the disorientation of hatchlings, causing them to veer off course and become stranded on land. This interference poses a significant threat to their survival, as the sea is their ultimate destination and source of sustenance.
Therefore, the proactive measures taken by the Turtle Commando Programme, under the umbrella of the Environment Authority, stand as a pivotal step in safeguarding the delicate lifecycle of these sea turtle species.
Through the implementation of controlled lighting practices, these efforts aim to mitigate the adverse impacts of human activity on these remarkable creatures, thereby contributing to the long-term health and preservation of their populations.
Notably, official statistics reveal that each year, an estimated 6,000 to 13,000 turtles choose to nest within this region. These turtles undertake migrations to the Sultanate of Oman from remote areas like the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea and the coastlines of Somalia. Additionally, it is important to highlight that the reserve serves as a habitat for a diverse array of bird and wildlife species. The primary objective behind its creation is to safeguard the natural ecosystem from human disruption.