SIMILAN ISLANDS: Scientists, ecologists and navy personnel from Phuket and Japan combined recently on a project to attach satellite tracking tags to sea turtles in Thai waters. The only thing missing was the turtles; over a two-week period, the 12-person research team camping on Mun-Nai Island in the Similans managed to find only five turtles they could tag. Involved in the project were the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), Kyoto University, the Royal Thai Navy Third Fleet, and the Sea Turtle Conservation Station on Mun-Nai Island. “The tag is a very useful tool for our sea turtle research project,” explained Kongkiat Kitiwattanawong, the marine biologist at the PMBC. “It is a satellite transmitter and was invented by Prof Wataru Sakamoto of Kyoto University.” The tagging crew, led by K. Kongkiat and Commodore Winai Klom-in of the Third Fleet, and including Prof Sakamoto, left Phuket on June 7 for a two-week trip to the Similans. Every morning, they waited from 1 am to 4 am for turtles to come up onto the beach to lay eggs. Only five arrived. K. Kongkiat admitted, “It’s not the egg-laying season, but this was the only time Prof Sakamoto was available, and we had budget, so we went ahead.”
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