The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project (DTRP) is a project run by Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts in collaboration with Dubai’s Wildlife Protection Office. It has been running in its current form since 2004 and has so far seen the release of over 560 rescued sea turtles back into Dubai’s waters. In 2011 alone, over 350 sick or injured sea turtles have been treated by the DTRP after being washed up on the region’s beaches. The DTRP is currently the only project of its kind in the Middle East and Red Sea region.
For this interview, which is part of a series with all the finalists for this year’s World Responsible Tourism Awards, Anula Galewska speaks with Warren Baverstock, Aquarium Operations Manager.
Anula: What are the challenges that your organisation is trying to meet?
Warren: We are trying to raise awareness of the plight of sea turtles within our region and the threats that they face. Sea turtle populations are in decline all over the world, and the threats they face are all anthropogenic in origin. By directly saving animals and returning them to the wild populations and educating people about such threats we hope to make a difference.
Anula: What’s special about your approach to meeting these challenges?
Warren: We are the first specialist rehabilitation project in the region and the first to link the hospitality industry, conservation and education while directly involving our guest and the community. The DTRP has proven to be a flagship conservation project in the region and engagement of the local community has been inspiring. Highlighting the threats to sea turtles encourages residents and colleagues alike to think twice about their actions with regards to energy consumption and discarding waste.
Anula: How do you educate travellers about what you do?
Warren: We have weekly educational and feeding sessions for guests and the public to learn about the project and the regional plight of sea turtles. Also we are very active on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about events and things that are happening within the project.
Anula: How do you engage and educate local community in what you do?
Warren: Our weekly educational sessions are open to the community, but in addition to this, we have special school visits which are free to participating school classes. We actively encourage people to come and see the project, understand the work we do and learn about what they can do to help conserve marine life.
Anula: What’s the most exciting thing your organisation has achieved so far?
Warren: That’s easy: releasing over 1090 turtles to date back into the wild that would otherwise have perished; for us, that is our greatest achievement and one we are very proud of.
Anula: What motivated you to apply for WRTA?
Warren: Recognition raises awareness, not only for the project but also awareness of the challenges sea turtles face; our motivation for applying was to raise awareness of the work we do.
Anula: What expectations do you have if you win?
Warren: I don’t think we have expectations, but we hope that if we win, it will raise the profile of the project so that more people know about the work we do and what to do if they find a sick or injured turtle in our region.
To find out more about The Aquarium & Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
This article is part of the interview series with the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2016 finalists, with whom we explore the best practices in marketing and sustainable tourism communications. The rest will be published between now and the opening of World Travel Market on November 7th.