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ESO tags turtles, raises awareness on Masirah.

(Pub date: 18/05/2011)

The Environment Society of Oman (ESO) has just returned from Masirah Island where the world's largest loggerhead turtle rookery is located. During the three days that they were on the island, ESO staff engaged the local community through awareness raising activities about loggerhead turtles, their importance in the marine eco-system as well as the unique ecology found on the beac-hes of Masirah, a press release said.

ESO organised community outreach activities on the island funded by the Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environmental Grant, and used various interactive educational tools including demonstrations on the beach and presentations in schools. ESO also applied a pre-evaluation questionnaire to measure the level of awareness of the local people. "So much of their knowledge is based on traditions passed on from generation to generation and it has been an interesting experience trying to challenge these traditions and give scientific explanations, but we received extremely positive feedback and the locals were very open to learning about their role in turtle conservation," said Dima Radwan, community outreach and educatio-nal manager, ESO.

ESO visited three schools and met with over 150 students. A presentation was also conducted at the Masirah Women's Association which targeted the women in the community. During the three days, a total of 41 locals were invited to take part in the turtle tagging. Dr Mehdi Jaaffar, vice-president of the board at ESO, attended a meeting with the Naib Wali of Masirah to further encourage his support of the activities taking part on the Island. A total of 18 turtles were tagged by the ESO marine team who is still on the island and will be tracking female turtles during the nesting season for the next five months. ESO has received funding from the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund through the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service and has therefore been able to use satellite technology to extend its tracking techniques beyond the beach and into the ocean where turtles spend the majority of their lifetime.

"The main aim of the tracking this year is to better understand the frequency with which loggerhead turtles nest, which will allow us to more accurately estimate the size of the population. The data currently suggest a severe decline in numbers of turtles which we are anxious to try to halt through conservation measures addressing major threats like entanglement in fishing gear, vehicles on beaches, coastal development and lighting. We need the help of the people of Masirah, who are proud of the turtles that visit their island to achieve our aims," said marine conservationist Robert Baldwin, head of ESO's marine programme. The ESO programme on Masirah includes involvement of locally-recruited assistants, as well as collaboration with officials and rangers from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs.

During the field work, a group from Emirates Wildlife Society/World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) also visited Masirah and tagged four Hawksbill turtles, extending their tagging programme in Oman, which also includes the Damaniyat Islands. The EWS-WWF has been active in the UAE since 2001 and works on several conservation and educational projects in the region. "We are pleased to host the EWS-WWF during its fieldwork in Oman, which proves that ESO's work on turtle research and conservation is part of a wider regional collaboration to protect and conserve these endangered species," said marine scientist And-rew Wilson who manages operations for the ESO turtle project on Masirah.

Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:May 22, 2011
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