Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
The Caspian Turtle
Rarest Turtle in the Gulf Region
Much attention is given to the noble work of rescue, rehabilitation and protection of turtles in the Arabian Gulf.
But there is rarely any mention of our only Freshwater Turtle which is found in Bahrain. It is so rare that it is often omitted in lists of Gulf fauna, even for Bahrain.
This is the Caspian Turtle Mauremys caspica siebenrocki
The only protected area in Bahrain is Al Areen Wildlife Park and this covers only a very small area. Al Areen has, or did, hold a small population of these turtles and I believe that Sharjah Arabia's Wildlife Centre holds a few.
Outside of Al Areen most all of ponds and waterways are now built upon and it is extremely unlikely that any viable turtle population remains in the wild.
Needs Local Protection
Generally speaking the Caspian Turtle is not a rare species though is threatened throughout its range. There is a small population around Dharan in Saudi Arabia. Outside of the Arabian Gulf it is common and widespread. Dumping of pet specimens has expanded its range with specimens turning up in the UK on occasion. There have been multiple sightings in the USA.
I do believe that this turtle deserves more attention especially as it is the Gulfs only freshwater turtle. Although Al Areen may be doing a good job in housing them it is never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket.
The species should be held in every zoo and aquarium in the Gulf region as they are an excellent example for demonstration of cooperative conservation of a very rare species which will probably never be returned to the wild.