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Lack of tourists sees return of endangered sea turtles to Koh Samui

Jack Burton

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Lack of tourists sees return of endangered sea turtles to Koh Samui | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

Thailand’s ebach resorts maybe bereft of tourists, but another population is making a comeback: endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles are returning in droves. This year, as the Covid-19 pandemic emptied the nation of tourists, nests on Koh Samui in the southern Surat Thani province have burgeoned. Since February, some 838 baby turtles have scuttled their way across the island’s beaches and into the sea, with 2 nests still to hatch. According to Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean at the faculty of fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok:

“It is really exciting and we hope that people in Samui will help us protect the turtles in the future – we have a chance.”

Locals and businesses alike have rallied to protect the nests, building bamboo fences around them to shield them from roaming water lizards and dogs. Some have camped beside nests in hopes of seeing the babies hatch, or spotting a mother turtle, who usually returns after 10 or 12 days to lay more eggs. 1 hotel ordered its security teams to keep a watchful eye, visit every hour, and redirect CCTV and motion sensors to make sure the eggs were not disturbed.

Female sea turtles typically nest every 2-3 years, using their flippers to dig a teardrop shaped cavity in the sand, and laying 80-120 leathery eggs, usually at night. A marine biologist working at the Banyan Tree resort, where a single green turtle laid 5 nests this year, said:

“They look for areas that are calm and peaceful. We try to grow banyan plants, because normally they love the trees because of the shade.”

It’s not clear whether turtles that may have been put off from nesting on crowded Samui beaches in the past might have travelled elsewhere to nest. It’s possible that they released the eggs in the water, and they failed to hatch, says Thon.

“The eggs inside the sea turtle cannot wait. It’s like humans: if you need to give birth, you will give birth in the taxi.”

The number of sea turtles in Thailand’s waters has fallen drastically over the past century. Samui was a completely different place 50 years ago; it was only wooden forests, coconut farms and there was no road. Now, in a good year, the island has more than 2 million visitors. It’s not just the development of beaches that poses a threat to turtles: other dangers include poaching, pollution and fishing nets.

Around the world, the future of the turtles and other marine life is increasingly threatened by climate change, as hotter temperatures contribute to rising sea levels and storms, changing ocean currents and harming the coral reefs which many depend on for survival. There is also growing concern about the impact of global warming on the gender ratio of turtles: the warmer the sand eggs are buried in, the more likely the offspring will be female.

In Thailand, conservationists are finding new ways to monitor the turtles. In recent months, the Phuket Marine Biological Centre tracked a hawksbill mother turtle that laid eggs on Samui in an attempt to discover more about how her route can be better protected. The centre’s director says:

“If you want to conserve any animal you have to know their life cycle and habitat.”

Facial recognition technology that identifies turtles is being developed. It’s hoped this will help generate more accurate estimates of numbers, as turtles are difficult to count due to their migration patterns.
The number of nests reported on Samui this year is by far the highest of any year on record, though reports only date back to 2012. No one knows what will happen when the island sees the return of tourists, which so many businesses depend upon.

Thon hopes a balance can be struck. The pandemic has shown that Samui is an important nesting ground for the species, and the break in tourism caused by the pandemic is a chance to act, he says.

“We have to.”

SOURCE: The Guardian

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jay

    Friday, August 21, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Don’t want to be finicky, but why there is a picture of a Ladderback sea turtle on the top of the article but the article is about Hawskbill and Green turtles?!

    • Avatar

      Jay

      Friday, August 21, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      Sorry, typo mistake, I meant Leatherback turtle!

    • Avatar

      Toby Andrews

      Friday, August 21, 2020 at 10:36 pm

      Yes you are right Jay that picture is not a Green Turtle and not a Hawksbill turtle.
      Could it be that Dr Thon has his turtles mixed up?
      Or could it be the photograph is a fraud.
      Maybe because there are two different colour of sand. Is this where they put two pictures together?

  2. Avatar

    Luigi

    Friday, August 21, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    it seems that all problems are caused by tourists

    • Avatar

      Solaris

      Friday, August 21, 2020 at 9:43 pm

      Now the turtles will pay hotels, restaurants, professional night workers and jet ski scammers, and everybody will finally be happy on the island.

  3. Avatar

    Caroliña

    Friday, August 21, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    ebach resorts or beach resorts? A nice article nevertheless and happy for the sea turtles, even though it happens when the tourism and aviation industry is suffering.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Environment

Survey underway as experts attempt to save James Bond island from erosion

Maya Taylor

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Survey underway as experts attempt to save James Bond island from erosion | Thaiger
PHOTO: Michaela Loheit on Flickr

Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is working with other environmental departments to determine how best to save a popular tourist attraction. Khao Ta Pu, commonly known as James Bond island, in the southern province of Phang Nga, is at risk of collapse, due to seawater erosion. The ministry is working with counterparts in the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, in efforts to save the islet.

The natural marine park landmark, a chunk of 20-metre high limestone, got its nickname after featuring in the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”, in 1974. It is part of Ao Phang Nga National Park. The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Varawut Silpa-archa, says efforts are underway to determine the extent of seawater erosion.

“The ministry is working with the Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to survey the islet and surrounding areas to find ways to prevent erosion that might cause it to collapse. We are adapting the techniques used in surveying damage of limestone at Mu Koh Angthong National Marine Park in Surat Thani province and at the Pun Yod Rock Castle in Satun province.”

Varawut is hopeful the islet’s foundation can be strengthened without impacting its natural beauty.

“A 3D scanner, marine seismic scanner, and echo sounder have been deployed to gather necessary information. Preliminary estimation suggests that we can reinforce the islet’s foundation without jeopardising the scenery. Furthermore, we are establishing a monitoring programme with cooperation from local communities to track changes of weather and marine conditions in the area that might affect the landmark.”

Last October, a large chunk broke off Koh Mae Urai, near Phi Phi island in the southern province of Krabi. The huge piece broke off in 2 sections, estimated to weigh around 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes, and collapsed onto a coral reef popular with scuba divers.

SOURCE: Inquirer.net

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Environment

Environmentalists criticise Netflix fishing doco for inaccuracies and misinformation

Maya Taylor

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Environmentalists criticise Netflix fishing doco for inaccuracies and misinformation | Thaiger
PHOTO: Alex Berger / Flickr

As Thailand accuses a Netflix documentary of using outdated and inaccurate information about the country’s fishing industry, a number of global environmental experts are echoing similar criticisms. According to a report in Coconuts, Seaspiracy has been slammed for being full of inaccuracies and twisting the science behind the damage to the world’s oceans, minimising the role of climate change and plastic pollution.

Brian Kahn, a journalist with an MA in Climate and Society, has written a piece called, Don’t Watch Netflix’s Seaspiracy, in which he also accuses the documentary of resorting to racial stereotypes.

“The bad guys are Asians, specifically Japanese whale and dolphin hunters and Chinese consumers of shark fin soup. The good guys – in this case, the experts he cites – are mostly white.”

According to the Coconuts report, the Marine Stewardship Council in London agrees the documentary contains “several inaccuracies” and the Plastic Pollution Coalition says the makers have “cherry-picked” quotes that will fit with their narrative. Marine biology magazine, Hakai, has also weighed in on the matter.

“Though the film misleads viewers with oversimplified science, its real harm is that it ignores the history, culture, and systemic inequities that are entwined with ocean conservation.”

Seaspiracy had its global release last month and has become one of the top 10 most-watched offerings on the Netflix streaming service. Opinion is divided, with many praising British filmmaker Ali Tabrizi for highlighting the issues with the global fishing industry, while others have slammed it for being biased and scientifically inaccurate.

The Royal Thai Navy has also criticised its portrayal of the country’s fishing industry, claiming it’s based on outdated information. In 2015, reporter Thapanee Eadsrichai exposed the significant role human trafficking and slavery played in the industry. This led to a crackdown of sorts, although slavery is still suspected of playing a role, on a smaller scale. The EU then threatened to ban all Thai seafood when the Kingdom’s illegal fishing practices came to light, but backed down when Thailand took steps to rectify the situation.

SOURCE: Coconuts

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Thailand

Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution

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Report attributes 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand to air pollution | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

According to the State of Global Air 2020 Report, around 32,000 premature deaths in Thailand, back in 2019, have been attributed to air pollution. The report cites the PM2.5 pollution particles as the main culprit as particles in that size range are the most likely to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs.

Exposure to these fine particles can cause short-term health effects, such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. But the long-term effects of being exposed to the particles is much more sinister.

Long-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution particles can affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. Scientific studies have linked increases in daily PM2.5 exposure with increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions, emergency department visits and deaths.

Studies also suggest that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. People with breathing and heart problems, children and the elderly may be more sensitive to PM2.5 particles.

In Thailand, it’s burning season in the north as farmland and forests blaze with abundance (the annual burning season usually lasts from January to April, before the wet season kicks in). Despite increasing cautions against air pollution affecting short and long-term health of residents, the fires don’t show signs of stopping. The government has even issued a no burning ban, but enforcing the ban has proved to be fruitless as such provinces in northern Thailand consist of vast forest lands.

The government helicopter team can only do so much as they set out to locate hotspots and attempt to extinguish them by dropping buckets of water. But crop burning appears to be the cheapest and fastest way to help farmers clear their lands for a new growing season.

Recently, Thailand’s northern province of Chiang Mai has ranked the 3rd most polluted city in the world, according to AirVisual, which gives live updates of rankings. Today, Chiang Mai doesn’t appear in the list of the top 10 most air-polluted cities in the world, according to iqair.com

SOURCE: Sky News/Health.ny.gov

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