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Better protection

Oman’s marine turtle conservation efforts have just got a tech edge with the Ras Al Jinz turtle info centre going digital. The museum attached to the centre, redone by the Ministry of Tourism and Oman LNG, provides extensive information about the marine ecosystem that supports the species. Oman is blessed with 3,165km-long coastline and its pristine upkeep has made it a haven for a variety of marine life. No wonder that some of its beaches offer a ringside view of the nesting of the endangered sea turtles. The nesting season is a spectacle with hundreds of animals coming ashore at night and returning to sea before daybreak. From July to October, some 60,000 eggs thus get laid. They hatch in 55 days turning preparing another spectacle on the beaches with the hatchlings dashing straight to the waters. It is a matter of pride for the nation’s conservation managers that five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles are found on Oman’s waters. Four of those species nest on the nation’s beaches. Therefore, the government’s success in preserving the beaches has a telling impact on conserving the species. Ras Al Jinz offers nesting ground to green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) along with Ras Al Hadd, Masirah Island and Daymaniyat Islands. Their more extensive geographical distribution when compared to the various other species is a tribute to their adaptability. In comparison the loggerhead turtle nests on Masirah Island and the shores of Dhofar and Daymaniyat Islands. The even rarer Hawksbill turtles nest on the shores of Muscat and Daymaniyat Islands and the Olive Ridely turtles nest on Masirah shores. Only the leatherback turtles, though found on Omani waters, do not nest here. The Ras Al Jinz reserve was established as far back 1996 by a Royal Decree. The reserves protect the turtles from human disturbance and keep the beaches in a better condition without littering and pollution so that the turtles can return year after year for nesting.

The government deserves all appreciation for preserving the beaches and conducting awareness campaigns annually among coastal communities to strengthen their participation in turtle protection. Experts have expressed concern about a decline in the numbers of some species of turtles nesting in the Sultanate. Dana Sarhani, board member of the Environmental Society of Oman (EOS), recently said the number of turtles visiting the nesting location in Masirah has fallen to 13,000 at present from 30,000 in the 1980s, pointing to the necessity of more stringent measures for species conservation. That is why the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism to rope in local communities for the protection and awareness building of turtle behaviour are commendable. The Sultanate can provide leadership to international efforts for a thorough study of the nesting behaviour of all subpopulations of marine turtles, five of which are found on Omani coast. The Sultanate’s conservation programmes for two endangered species of sea turtles have caught international attention. The nation can use its international influence to evolve a comprehensive trans-border plan to effectively protect these animals that are sensitive to slightest change in environment. The reserves and their well-equipped information centres will go a long way in kindling interest in the public in species conservation.