ALULA: Ahead of the first ever Desert X Prix, being held in AlUla, Extreme E has revealed its Legacy Program plans for Saudi Arabia, confirming the electric SUV rally series’ commitment to long-term environmental sustainability.
The new initiative will support turtle conservation along the Red Sea coast in association with Ba’a Foundation, an organization focused on environmental conservation through projects aimed at preserving endangered species, natural habitats, and historical sites.
Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said: “I’m really pleased Extreme E can support this crucial legacy initiative in Saudi Arabia. This series is of course about thrilling racing, but we are also shining a spotlight on climate and environmental crises happening all over the world and trying to make a lasting difference.
“The Red Sea is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and we have worked closely with the Ba’a Foundation to identify this important project based around endangered sea turtle conservation; a truly worthy and exciting initiative that will start receiving our support immediately.”
The first ever Extreme E event takes place on April 3 and 4 across the Saudi desert, and the competing drivers are fully backing the new initiative.
British driver Jamie Chadwick, of Veloce Racing, said: “The legacy programs are integral to the series and myself and the Veloce Racing team are wholeheartedly supportive and committed to playing our part. We are fully embracing this Legacy Program in Saudi Arabia and we look forward to seeing the positive results.
“It’s been great speaking to the scientists and learning more about the issues in this region. I just hope that our learnings and our actions really help to make a tangible difference.
“While we are here to race and win, we are also here to help facilitate and communicate vital changes that need to be made. We need to do this together; we need to drive change,” she added.
Extreme E will support the protection of the endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, which are under threat for a variety of reasons. These include entanglement in fishing gear, illegal trade in their eggs – considered a delicacy in some countries – and shells, coastal development including building on nesting beaches, and plastic debris.
In addition, rising sand temperatures caused by climate change create gender ratio skews. The higher the temperature, the more likely the turtle is to be female, and rising sea levels can erode nesting beaches and flood nesting sites, destroying eggs.
One of the Saudi nesting spots targeted by the project is Ras Baridi, located 50 kilometers north of Yanbu city, a major site of Red Sea and Indian Ocean significance. Sea turtles are born there and return about 30 years later to reproduce, and then around every five years subsequently.
However, due to beach damage caused by rising sea levels and increased erosion, returning turtles often cannot climb newly formed beach shelves, or if they do, perish by falling off the cliff edges when heading back to the water after nesting.
Also, their nests are more likely to flood due to rising sea levels relative to when they hatched three decades earlier. In 2019, there was a 90 percent mortality of eggs due to the sea flooding nests.
These problems were detected in a research project led by Prof. Carlos M. Duarte at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a recently appointed member of Extreme E’s scientific committee.
Extreme E will be supporting turtle conservation through beach fencing, beach management and monitoring, careful nest relocation, education programs, and improvements such as raising the level of beaches to a suitable height with imported sand to allow for successful turtle nesting and egg hatching.
Bader Al-Rabiah, executive director at the Ba’a Foundation, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with Extreme E on this exciting project which demonstrates our commitment to the Kingdom’s values in embracing the future while also preserving our culture and protecting our environment.
“Saudi Arabia is home to a young population which is eager for world-class events and sporting activities. However, it also has a natural habitat for some of the most beautiful and rare species, such as the endangered turtles we are trying to protect through this unique and creative initiative.
“This initiative is part of a full program at Ba’a Foundation to conserve marine life on both Saudi coasts, Red Sea and Arabian Gulf,” Al-Rabiah added.
The Extreme E series will visit five locations starting in Saudi Arabia, and moving on to Senegal, Greenland, Brazil, and Patagonia, with each representing a different environment – desert, coastal, arctic, rainforest, and glacier.
Each have been impacted by environmental issues such as climate change, and Extreme E aims to leave a long-lasting positive impact and inspire change through the power of sport and the promotion of clean energy transport solutions, which help reduce the effects of climate change.