Threatened sea turtles have Thai navy for protection

Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:36am EDT
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By Papitchaya Boonngok

KHRAM ISLAND, Thailand (Reuters Life!) - Sea turtles have to battle humans hungry for their meat or eggs and fungal infections to survive, but in Thailand, the endangered species have the navy on their side.

Every year, dozens of mature sea turtles come ashore on Khram Island, an isolated island known as the biggest nesting site of sea turtles in the Gulf of Thailand, to lay their eggs.

The turtles born out of these eggs will also eventually return to the same island, some 30 km (19 miles) from the tourist beach town of Pattaya, when it is their time to lay eggs.

But the survival of these eggs, and the hatchlings, is under constant threat, which is why the navy has been protecting them for almost 20 years.

"Sea turtles in Thailand have not reached a critical endangered level," said Captain Aran Jiemyuu, Deputy Director of the Thai Navy's Sea Turtle Conservation Center which was set up in 1992.

"But that's because of our efforts. At Khram Island, we found green turtles, from 15 to 17-years-old laying eggs. It shows that the turtles laying eggs here may be turtles we nurtured and released to the sea or natural-born turtles on the island."

Sea turtles are recognised as an endangered species by International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

But Aran said the number of sea turtles in Thailand has increased since the project was set up.   Continued...

<p>Thai navy sailors take green turtle hatchlings out of their hatching hole in a beach of Khram island, 30 km (18 miles) from the busy tourist beach town of Pattaya, east of Bangkok June 17, 2009. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom</p>