Sunday, 24 March 2013

Turtle Conservation

There was an article in the Phuket Gazette today (Sunday March 24th, 2013) about turtles. It is bad news for the traditional breeding grounds and egg-laying grounds for the turtles in both the Phuket and the Khao Lak regions.

The article is very short on facts but the overall message is hard to dispute: turtles laying their eggs on the shores of the beaches stretching from Phuket to the north of Phang-Nga Province are becoming are becoming a rare sight. Just 20 years ago there were masses of turtles to see. It is an area famous throughout Thailand for its turtles.

Yet sadly, now there are very few turtles left in the wild. The species that used to be most prevalent is the leatherback sea turtle. Now due to plastic bags getting into the sea and poisoning the turtles along with pollution from tourism and fishing vessels, and with over-fishing of all marine resources by both big companies and subsistence fishermen turtle numbers are in sharp decline.

The authorities and wild life organizations spotted the trend a few years ago and several conservation efforts are underway to breed turtles in captivity and release them back into the area.

As far back as 1979 conservation efforts started when the Queen donated her own island, Koh Mannai in Rayong to a project to boost turtle numbers. The centre piece of the project is a 5 hectare lagoon for breeding that was finished in 1988.

Other turtle conservation projects include the Thai Muang National Park (on the main Phet Kasem road) near Lam Kaen beach. It is one of the best places to see sea turtles come onto the beach. The best times of the year are December and February after 10pm.

10 to 15 km south of Bang La On is the Royal Thai Navy's Third Fleet Sea Turtle Nursery. Infant turtles are collected from along the Andaman Coast in the region and bought here where they are looked after until they are old enough to be released back into the wild.

All three of these conservation projects are open to the public. They are more research and conservation projects than tourist attractions and so there is limited information in English. The main thing, of course, is that effort is being made to conserve a sea creature that is at least 90 million years old and very much part of Thai culture.

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