Endangered turtle returns to beach to lay its eggs only to find runway has been built

Airstrip built last year is part of $60m development funded by UAE

Harry Cockburn
Friday 12 April 2019 09:00
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Endangered turtle returns to beach to lay its eggs only to find runway has been built

A turtle which came ashore an island in the Maldives historically popular as a nesting site was seen laying her eggs in the middle of a new airport runway which has been built across what used to be a beach.

In what appears to be a stark illustration of the immediate impacts of habitat loss on wildlife, the green sea turtle – a species listed as endangered by the IUCN – is seen in the middle of the 2,200m (7,200ft) Maafaru runway on the atoll of Noonu, laying her eggs on the tarmac.

Sea turtles almost always return to the exact same beach where they were born to lay their clutches of eggs, sometimes taking epic, multi-year journeys to reach the same small patch of sand.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances and bleak photograph of the incident, the turtle was reportedly in good health and was seen back into the sea by locals.

Maafaru has a long history of being a popular nesting site for hundreds of turtles, according to local news outlet The Edition, which quoted officials saying numbers of turtles visiting the island had not fallen since the construction of the airstrip last year.

“Despite the construction of the runway, the frequency with which turtles visit the island for nesting purposes has not decreased,” a source from Maafaru Island Council reportedly claimed.

Maafaru International airport remains unfinished, but the project will eventually allow the tiny atoll to be capable of simultaneously accommodating a total of six jets, while a hotel and resort are also to be built.

Then-Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom said last year the airport, valued at $60m (£46m), was a donation to the Maldives by the United Arab Emirates.

The Edition’s news report on the incident added: “The question remains on how much of the Maldives’ biodiversity must be sacrificed in order to propel our country forward industrially and economically.”

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