Marine turtles migrate long distances between their feeding grounds and nesting sites. They have a large shell called a carapace, four strong, paddle-like flippers and like all reptiles, lungs for breathing air. The characteristic beak-like mouth is used to shear or crush food.
All marine turtle species are experiencing serious threats to their survival. The main threats are pollution and changes to important turtle habitats, especially coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangrove forests and nesting beaches. Other threats include accidental drowning in fishing gear, over-harvesting of turtles and eggs, and predation of eggs and hatchlings.
Of the eight species of marine turtles in the world, five can be found in Thai waters:
- Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
- Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
- Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)
- Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea)
We are happy to inform readers that there are two resorts on this wonderful island who have taken this serious matter to heart and are both taking serious action, with the help of Phuket Marine Biological Centre and Third Naval Area Command to raise funds and awareness of the plight of these ancient creatures.
LAGUNA ANNUAL TURTLE CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
1994 – On-going
A program that includes a study of nesting behavior and tracking and analysis of turtle migration via microchips attached to released turtles.
Since 1994, over 1 million Thai Baht has been raised and donated to their research program. The turtle release event attracts large audiences from the local community and the resort’s international clientele. The initial aim of the project was to release juvenile turtles into the Indian Ocean in the hope of increasing the future number of nesting turtles.
As the results have yielded little benefi t thus far the research direction has changed to invest more heavily in the tracking research and less in the number of turtles that are released. It is hoped that this knowledge will further increase the efforts for turtle conservation.
MAI KHAO MARINE TURTLE FOUNDATION
2002 – On-going
In conjunction with the grand opening of the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa in 2002, Marriott donated $45,000 to launch the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation. Their numbers have been severely depleted over the last twenty
years and the local Mai Khao villagers work hard to protect these magnificent animals.
During the breeding season from November to February, sea turtles, particularly the giant leatherback, return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Local villagers patrol the beach at night during the breeding season, protecting the turtles while nesting, and keeping records of the number of eggs laid. When necessary the eggs are taken to a hatchery where the baby turtles are protected from elements of nature and human exploitation, and are then released in a special ceremony during the Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) in April.