Buoyed By Barnacles: Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa Helps Turtle Return to the Sea

On August 14, Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa’s resident Turtle Ranger Mohammed Abdullah Sulaiym Al Hasani found a six-year-old female turtle on the resort’s shores. The turtle was covered in barnacles, which are arthropods that attach to hard surfaces, including turtle shells. The barnacles can cover sea turtles’ eyes and nostrils to the point where the turtle can lose the ability to swim, see, smell and even survive.

“As soon as we received news that the turtle had washed up on the beach, we sprang into action to see what the concern was and what we could do for her,” said Mohammed. “We found that she was covered in barnacles, which can cause difficulty for turtles. Barnacles can grow to become quite thick and heavy, causing too much weight for the turtles and preventing them from surfacing for air.”

“Carrying the additional weight of the barnacles causes stress on the turtles, causing them to move less which allows for more barnacles to grow, as well as bacterial or fungal infections to take hold,” Mohammed continued. “When this young turtle came to our beach, we noticed she was showing signs of barnacle growth.”

After Mohammed found the young turtle, he cleaned the turtle’s flippers, head and shell until the turtle was barnacle-free.

“Prevention is better than finding a cure, so our team cleaned her up and released her back to the sea,” said Mohammed. “It gives me great pleasure to see every turtle make it back to the sea in a healthy condition, and it is always exciting to watch the new born hatchlings make it to sea. It is an especially rewarding moment when I see the eyes of our guests, particularly children, as they witness the moment of hatching.”

Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa and Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa are located on one of the five nesting sites in Oman. Upon resort construction, part of the agreement between Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and the ministry was that the resort would employ a full-time turtle ranger to professionally monitor and record the turtle activities, nesting and hatching numbers, as well as to educate local communities regarding the threats facing all turtle species.

“We have a team taking care of the turtles on our beaches, and along with my colleague Hassan, we patrol the resort’s beaches at night to monitor turtle activity,” said Mohammed. “It is important to ensure the female turtles can nest in peace and that the hatchlings make it to the sea safely. We also watch over the hatchlings to make sure they are not attacked by predators like crabs and seagulls. I am also responsible for relocating the turtle nests from the main beach area to a secluded location at the resort.”

“Another important responsibility is to educate our guests, visitors and members of the local community about the importance of marine biodiversity and measures to take in order to preserve it,” Mohammed continued. “We host a daily turtle talk at 5 p.m. every day in the Eco Centre as well as Turtle Walks for guests along our beaches every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday at 11 a.m. Both activities are free for guests and are very educational.”

On average, 80 female green and hawksbill turtles lay 120 eggs per nest on the beaches of Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa and Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa.

“As of October, we have counted 95 nests with a total of 3,052 turtle hatchlings,” said Mohammed.

Congratulations to Mohammed and the dedicated team at Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa and Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa for taking care of our ocean friends. Check out Turtle Talk with Mohammed for more information about the Sanctuary program and his role at the resort.