Muscat: If all goes according to plan, temperature loggers will be installed on Ras Al Jinz beaches used by turtles for nesting.
There is a need to record temperatures as studies have shown that global warming is causing disproportionately higher number of turtle hatchlings to be female. This is because warmer nests tend to lead to female turtles while cooler ones yield males.
This comes in the backdrop of a research disclosing that about 99 per cent of all local species of green sea turtles hatching near the great barrier off the coast of Australia, were found to be female. Some experts suspect that this large scale feminisation could lead to extinction of this green turtle sub-population in the long term.
Though, global warming affecting turtle genders is a universal phenomenon, there has been no research on this as far as turtles nesting in Oman are concerned. Malaysia-based British marine biologist Nicholas Pilcher would like to rectify this by installing five temperature loggers at the Ras Al Jinz nesting site.
He would like to do this in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) and Five Oceans Environmental Services, but he has yet to receive approval from MECA.
“There is no data on beach temperatures for the Ras Al Jinz site. Moreover, at present there is no large-scale research to look at where the younger turtles that depart Ras Al Jinz go to. I am hoping to get temperature loggers deployed there this year, if we get approval from MECA to do this. It would be a start,” he said.
Pilcher has worked on sea turtle biology and conservation for 30 years, across the Middle East, South East Asia and other parts of the Indo-Pacific.
Four species of turtles nest in Oman namely loggerhead, hawksbill, green and olive ridley.
Other turtle nesting sites in Oman include beaches at Daymaniyats, Ras Al Hadd, Masirah and Dhofar. Importantly, these are diverse nesting habitats with varying temperatures.
Vijay Handa, cluster general manger at Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve said that his organisation would be happy to lend a helping hand to conservation efforts.
“In fact, we discussed this matter with an expert at a meeting on administrative affairs,” he said.
If research proves that a disproportionate ratio of turtles are hatching on the beaches of Oman, then damage control is bound to be expensive and challenging.
“Shade cloth would indeed be a good option. It is used in Malaysia at the beach hatcheries but on a very small scale. Putting shade cloth over large beaches would be a logistical challenge and very high maintenance.
“Sprinklers were tried in Japan and they worked, but on a very small scale ,” Pilcher said.
Ras Al Jinz and Ras Al Hadd are massive, and water is a scarce commodity. And you can’t use sea water because the salt would desiccate the eggs (drain them of moisture and spoil them), he added.