Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) discovered in distress on a private beach in Abu Dhabi. Loggerheads, as their name implies, have massive, even disproportionate battering-ram heads that allow them to be readily identified. This one was barely responsive by the time she was brought to us, in the back of a 4×4 that even with seats down only barely accommodated her 1.4 metre-long bulk. She is currently under medical observation: condition unknown, but still alive…just.



Dead hawksbill sea turtle hatchling, about 5-10 hours old. Out of a nest of 100-120 eggs buried in a nest under 60cm of sand, up to 70% or so will hatch; of those, several inevitably die in the nest, too weak or malformed to dig their way out like the others. This was one of 5 dead hatchlings unearthed while excavating a translocated nest to evaluate hatching success.

Taken in July of 2010 at Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates


this woman’s work

Female Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) returning to the sea after nesting in a small cove on the Sir Bu Nair Island off the U.A.E. coast. Most sea turtles nest at night, so this was a rare and fortunate sighting.

Hawksbills lay about 100 eggs in a nest dug in the sand, and may nest up to 7 times in a season. The eggs lie buried for 45-60 days before they hatch. Hatchlings dig their way out of the sand and make immediately for the sea. The males will never return to land again. After 15-20 years, adult females will return to the beaches where they were born to lay their own eggs.

Taken during nesting season of 2010 on the sea turtle monitoring programme I helped start for the Sharjah Environmental authorities.


One of the green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) I looked after while working at a part-time university job. Of all the animals I was responsible for they were probably among my favourites. Only a few had actual names – the others were identified by serial numbers only – but this was the one I called Miles, for no real reason except that the name seemed to fit. No connection to Miles Davis, whom I love, but wasn’t thinking about when I named the turtle.

Taken in August of 2006


Hatchling release at the Gandoca-Manzanillo Turtle Conservation Project, Costa Rica. I had this little guy brought to me by a local fisherman who had found it trapped in a pile of driftwood, where it had probably wound up while trying to make its way to the sea after hatching out. It’s a leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), one of the most unusual species of marine turtle in the world. They are also critically endangered; through poaching, careless fishing methods that trap them in trawler nets, where they suffocate, and the loss of suitable beaches to nest on as world coastlines become more developed and polluted. Females only ever emerge onto land to nest – they lay upwards of a hundred eggs in nests dug in the sand, which they then cover over and leave for good, returning to the ocean. When the young hatch, they have to dig their way out of the nest, and then make their way to the sea without getting eaten or overheated. Despite the fact that they have an unerring instinctive sense of where the ocean is, not many of them make it.

I hope this one did. We kept him in a shaded spot until it had got a bit cooler, then let him go.