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Phuket dolphinarium grinds forward [video]

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket dolphinarium grinds forward [video] | The Thaiger

PHUKET: The still unopened Phuket dolphinarium has cleared another set of hurdles in its attempts to launch the project to the public following issuance by the Department of Fisheries of the necessary public zoo operations licence earlier this month.

“The building has been improved and now meets our standards,” an officer from the Department of Fisheries, who asked not to be named, told the Phuket Gazette this morning.

In December last year, the dolphinarium became entangled in red tape when officers from Bangkok ordered Phuket Aqua Project Co Ltd to make a number of changes to the Nemo Dolphinarium (story here).

“The next step is for Phuket Aqua Project Co Ltd to provide us the documents necessary to import the marine animals. Once we have this paperwork, we will again need to inspect the venue to ensure it meets the standards necessary for the animals it is set to house,” the official explained.

At this stage it is unclear whether or not the dolphinarium will be importing the same marine animals originally slated for the project or sourcing different animals.

Spearheading the battle against the dolphinarium is dolphin trainer turned animal rights activist Ric O’Barry, well-known for his role in the Academy-award winning documentary The Cove. Video: PGTV

A direct connection between five wild-caught dolphins originally bound for Phuket’s dolphinarium and the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins at the Taiji cove in Japan was confirmed by the Asia Director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to the Gazette last year (story here).

Initial reports said that a total of six dolphins would be transported to Phuket via the Ukraine. However, the CITES* permit issued by the Ukraine Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources identifies eight dolphins and two South American fur seals to be exported to Thailand.

Three of the dolphins, two Pacific Bottlenose dolphins and one Black Sea Bottlenose dolphin, were born in captivity in 2012 and are being directly exported from Ukraine, said Shepherd Conservation Society Asia Director Gary Stokes.

In addition, five more Pacific Bottlenose dolphins are being re-exported from Ukraine; and all five were originally caught in the wild in Japan, he explained.

“We are just going to have to wait for them to officially file the paperwork and see what animals they are wanting to import. For example, if they request to import 20 dolphins, it doesn’t mean they can get the 20 dolphins from the exporting country,” the official said.

“We are taking our time and being careful to ensure that all the paperwork is in good order.”

The Nemo Dolphinarium project manager, who also declined to be named, told the Gazette today that he had no idea when the venue would open.

“It could still take a very long time before the venue opens,” he said. “I would like it to open as soon as possible, though I admit that at this point we’ve not come very far. There are so many steps to take.

“Many people are waiting for the dolphinarium to open, while others will do whatever it takes to stand in our way.”

Spearheading the battle against the dolphinarium is dolphin-trainer-turned-animal-rights-activist Ric O’Barry, well-known for his role in the Academy-award winning documentary The Cove.

Mr O’Barry explained to the Gazette in an exclusive interview last year that the establishment of the dolphinarium on the island would tarnish the island’s reputation as a tourism destination (Video Report here).

“If Phuket actually imports dolphins from Taiji, it’s going to be a blemish on tourism in Phuket on an international scale, because Phuket will be supporting this dolphin slaughter.”

Mr O’Barry urged Phuket officials to use the same global scale of exposure to positive effect.

“If Phuket does not import captive dolphins, Phuket will be sending a positive, powerful message to the rest of the world about Phuket’s respect for nature. That’s something that money can’t buy,” he noted.

Local marine conservationists, as well as Sea Shepard Global, continue to battle the project.

However, Director of the Fishery Management Bureau Marnop Chaengkij has previously noted that Thailand does not have any embargo on dolphins from Ukraine or Japan, as long as the correct documentation is provided.

*CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention.

— Chutharat Plerin

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Events

The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners

The Thaiger

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The 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle fun run attracts more than 4,000 runners | The Thaiger

4,000 runners from Thailand and overseas took part in the 15th Mai Khao Marine Turtle Fun Run and Half Marathon 2019 yesterday, starting from the Phuket Gateway.

The event is expected to raise 700,000 baht for the charity, now in its 15th year. The money raised goes towards to The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, which is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environment, and ecosystems, for the wellbeing of sea turtles that nest in the Mai Khao beach and the surrounding areas.

The annual race also provides funds for thePhuket Marine Biological Centre’s Injured Turtle Rehabilitation Program and The Third NavalArea Command’s Turtle Hatchery Program.

The race was in its 15th year and runners of all ages and abilities took part in the race. The morning’s racing was divided into five categories – the 21.1km half marathon, 10.5km mini- marathon, 5km fun run and 3k family run and VIP participants for all the races. The route of 21.1 kilometre race took runners northwest along the Haad Sai Kaew beach towards Thao Thepkasattri bridge, past the rural road No. 3006, run along the road – Pi Lai viewpoint area returned back along the T. Baan Tha Nun to the iconic Sarasin bridge before finished the half marathon in the Phuket Gateway.

For Mini Marathon 10.5 km – Over all category, Mr. Chinnawat Changlek clocked 39 minutes and 40 seconds to clinch victory in the male half marathon, winning prize money and a trophy with the signature of Phuket’s Governor. The winner in the female mini marathon was Surakarn Wanna with a time of 47 minutes and 47 seconds.

Winners also received a prize gift voucher as well as a medal. Congratulations to all participants.

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