During the Covid-19 pandemic, tourist visits were restricted, a pleasant time for the laying of different species of sea turtles.
According to the Phuket Marine Biological Center, the province has seen more turtle nests than before the pandemic. Dozens of nests dug by different species of sea turtles containing hundreds of eggs have been spotted in 2021. Babies have hatched and crawled out to sea, and are expected to return when they are old enough to lay eggs for another generation if Phuket’s beaches are still in good condition after the pandemic.
Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, director of the Phuket Marine Biology Center, said sea turtle nesting has improved over the past two years as tourists are absent from beaches while pollution has also been reduced. The number of nests has increased the most over the past 20 years.
It is a positive sign for the preservation of endangered species, even if the chances of survival are very low, which is a natural cause. Usually, only about 1 in 1,000 hatched eggs will reach adulthood.
During the pandemic, species such as the leatherback turtle, hawksbill turtle, green turtle and loggerhead turtle were found. An olive ridley nest has also been spotted for the first time in 20 years.
However, as the kingdom expects to welcome fully vaccinated tourists, the nesting of healthy sea turtles in Phuket can only be observed temporarily.
Assistant Professor Thon Thamrongnawasawat said sea turtles are highly migratory. Without effective policies, Thailand cannot expect long-term population recovery.
Besides tourism, pollution and global warming also threaten the existence of sea creatures. Studies have shown that warmer sands lead to more female hatchlings compared to males. Meanwhile, plastic and discarded fishing lines and nets are the leading cause of illness and death for sea creatures.
Dr Patcharaporn Kaewong of the Phuket Marine Biology Center revealed that 56% of sea turtles brought to the center have ingested or become trapped in litter.
Currently, scientists and local authorities are on high alert for the nesting season, which runs until February. Authorities will quickly fence off a turtle nest and install video surveillance after a female turtle has laid eggs. Weak babies will be taken care of by the center until they are strong enough to go to the sea.
Dr Patcharaporn added that it was also important to educate the public about conservation.
Until a few decades ago, eating turtle eggs was common in Thailand. Collecting sea turtle eggs was banned by the government in 1982.
Those who own or sell leatherback turtle eggs can be punished with 3 to 15 years in prison.
Some marine protection NGOs even offer financial rewards to locals who report a nest, while the turtle microchip benefits long-term monitoring and conservation.
Previously, satellite tracking showed microchipped turtles they could migrate to Australia. (NNT)