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Sea Turtles Return to Thailand’s Beaches in the Absence of Tourists

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Sea Turtles Return to Thailand's Beaches in the Absence of Tourists
Biologists say the absence of tourists has propelled the green sea turtle to return to the Andaman Sea after it laid eggs on deserted Thai beaches.
During November of last year, scientists happened to spot the nesting of green turtles. Two months from now, the 100 eggs will hatch, and the babies will slide into the sea, guided by the moonlight.
During the period before the current pandemic, millions of tourists thronged on the white sand beaches of southern Thailand. These tourists were ferried there by tour boats, which dissuaded the creatures from venturing ashore to bathe in the warm waters.

As a consequence of almost two years of travel restrictions, several different species of sea turtles have begun nesting again around Phuket. Phuket was an extremely popular beach destination prior to the pandemic.

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In Phuket, 18 nests of leatherback turtles were discovered between October 2020 and February 2021. Leatherback turtles can grow up to 400 kilograms as adults and are among the largest species of sea turtle.

The Phuket Marine Biological Center’s director, Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, says the absence of tourists, noise, and light pollution has made nesting easier in the last two years.

In 20 years, we had never seen such a large number.”

Despite the very low chances of survival of nesting birds [about one egg out of 1,000 will survive to adulthood], Kongkiat said nesting is a positive sign for the preservation of endangered species.

In addition, a nest of olive ridley sea turtles was spotted for the first time in twenty years. Turtles such as leatherbacks, hawksbills, green turtles and loggerheads live in the warm waters around Thailand.

Scientists and local authorities are currently on high alert because of nesting season for sea turtles, which runs until February.

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As soon as a turtle lays a nest, the authorities move it to a safe place or surround it with bamboo fences and security cameras. This is because it is too close to the water.

Eating turtle eggs was a common practice in Thailand until a few decades ago, but in 1982 the Thai government banned gathering turtle eggs. A fine of up to $50,000 can be imposed for illegally possessing or selling turtle eggs.

Additionally, some marine protection NGOs reward locals who report nests, while technology — such as microchipping turtles — contributes to long-term monitoring as well.

According to biologists, satellite tracking confirmed that they can migrate much further than thought, with some travelling as far as Australia.

Source: France 24

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