Some time ago, a friend mentioned an interesting place here in Dubai. There is a pool, he said, at a hotel, with injured turtles in it.
They get looked after and eventually released back into the wild. Worth a look, he reported. It was!
I stored it away, as something I would do one day.
In typical fashion, however, it has taken me some time to get around to checking this story out.
But my word, I’m glad I did!
I had decided to go for a bit of a walk. I like walking in Dubai, as there’s always something to see.
As I made my way down to the canal, there was a snowman peeping over the wall of a compound. I jest not!
He had a black top hat and a big round head and was visible from the nose up.
Clearly, he had been stored away until next festive season, but there he was.
I took a photo and sent it off to ‘she who must be obeyed’, who is holding the fort back in Portugal.
I eventually found myself along the seafront and decided to make for the turtle place.
I meandered along the public beach in Jumeirah and eventually ended up in the hotel and made my way through to the pool area. It isn’t a pool like a chlorine-laden swimming pool for people, you know.
It is a proper seawater-filled, rocky-bottomed pool, with interesting little places for the turtles to chill out in.
The full name of this delightful facility is the Dubai Turtle rehabilitation project and it looks after these appealing animals when they eat some plastic (all too common, I’m afraid) have barnacles growing on their shell, or have a physical injury.
To say that it is enchanting just doesn’t come close.
There was a big, green chap (actually, the gender is a bit indeterminate, I’m afraid) who just trundled around, clearly the boss.
My favourite was a relatively small fellow, though, perhaps 30 or 40 centimetres across, with a fin missing.
I think it’s called a fin; it might be a foot.
Anyway, it had only one appendage at the front; his right front leg was gone.
He flapped gamely with his left leg and his two rear legs, so he didn’t go around in a circle or anything, but he was a bit awkward. It is a wonderful facility; all the better because of two things.
First, it is the only one in this part of the world and deserves a mention just because of that.
Secondly, though, and I’m not going to embarrass the hotel group by naming them, it is part of their corporate social responsibility commitment.
The upkeep and care of these damaged creatures has been quietly funded by them for 15 years or more.
In that time, more than 1,600 of these endearing reptiles have been looked after following injury or ill-health and have been returned to their natural environment.
That’s about two each week, on average. I think that’s marvellous.
Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org