The Yas SeaWorld® Research & Rescue Center Yas Island, Abu Dhabi: A round-the-clock lifeline for sick and injured marine animals

March 27, 2024

In collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), the Yas SeaWorld® Research & Rescue Center Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, the largest integrated research, rescue, rehabilitation and return center in the MENA region is on call to help any sick or injured marine animal in distress. The recent journey of a young hawksbill turtle represents the broader process that all animals in distress experience at this unique facility. 

The Center came to the rescue of a turtle who was struggling to swim off the Abu Dhabi coast due to the numerous barnacles found on his shell. Although shell barnacles are normal for all sea turtle species, the turtle was found near the water’s surface, exhibiting unusual lethargic behavior for a young hawksbill turtle — a clear indication to the rescue team that the barnacles were impeding the turtle’s swimming ability. This raised concerns about his overall health, as hawksbill turtles of this age typically do not accumulate such a significant number of barnacles. This led the rescue team to swiftly intervene and save the hawksbill turtle.  

Upon arrival at the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center, the turtle underwent general health assessments, which included a physical examination, radiographs, and blood tests. The hawksbill turtle was found to be suffering from suspected pneumonia, and the turtle promptly started on a course of injectable fluids and antibiotics. In the days that followed, the turtle began displaying signs of recuperation and started to eat and swim, demonstrating a promising turnaround.

This turtle’s successful rescue and rehabilitation journey represents just one of many stories. SeaWorld is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary this month, having rescued more than 40,000 animals around the world since its inception in 1965. This success is thanks to SeaWorld’s skilled veterinary teams and care experts, world-class facilities and the latest equipment required to successfully rescue, rehabilitate and return injured and distressed animals.

Dr. Elsburgh “Tres” Clarke III, Director of Animal Health and Welfare at the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center said: “Our ultimate goal is the safe return of every rescued animal to its natural habitat upon complete recovery in collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi. Leveraging our team of dedicated specialists and cutting-edge equipment, we expedite this process. In rare instances where experts, including The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, and other UAE environmental authorities, determine that releasing an animal into the wild is not advisable, we commit to offering long-term, compassionate care within our state-of-the-art facilities, while actively supporting ongoing research and educational endeavors.”

Maitha Al Hameli Section Head – Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Conservation in the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD said: “EAD has decades of experience in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife in Abu Dhabi and we are pleased that we now have a new partner such as the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center to help us expand our rehabilitation program and facilitate the rescue of species. Through teamwork we are always able to successfully rescue, and rehabilitate wildlife, including marine turtles back to health so that we can release them back into their natural habitats where they thrive, enhancing conservation of species in Abu Dhabi”.

In line with the UAE’s Year of Sustainability, the Center is constantly building local partnerships essential to being part of an effective rescue network. It has the region’s first marine wildlife rescue ambulances with specialized equipment to mobilize quickly and get to rescue sites fast. The state-of-the-art animal care equipment includes one of only a handful of animal CT machines in zoological facilities in the world as well as dedicated rehabilitation facilities, featuring UV lighting that mimics natural sunlight.

SeaWorld® Yas Island, Abu Dhabi and the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center are the region’s first facilities to be certified by Global Humane, the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare, establishing their commitment to the mission of promoting marine conservation and animal welfare in the MENA region. The successful rehabilitation of Barnacle serves as a testament to the Center’s dedication and underscores the critical role that such facilities play in protecting and preserving marine life.

To contact the emergency helpline, please call the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on 800-555

To find out more about the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Center’s rescue program, please visit