A leatherback sea turtle, which is a protected creature in Thailand, was spotted by marine officials laying eggs on the sands of Phang Nga’s Khao Lak beach last night, after a worrisome five-year absence.
This afternoon, Dr. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, one of the country’s most renowned marine ecologists, took his excitement to Facebook after receiving the news that the world’s largest living species of turtle has returned to lay a total of 93 eggs yesterday.
“[The] leatherback is the rarest turtle in Thailand. In recent years, a lot of these turtles have died because they ate plastic waste, assuming they mistaken it for jellyfish, which is their main diet,” he wrote.
เพื่อนธรณ์ครับ ในที่สุด ฝันที่รอคอยก็เป็นจริง คลิปและภาพนี้เป็นหลักฐานที่ดียิ่งว่า #เต่ามะเฟือง…
The creature was seen by officials last night and returned to the sea this morning.
Globally, leatherback turtles are categorized as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but many subpopulations like those in the east Pacific ocean or the Atlantic ocean are considered critically endangered.
Last year, top Thai wildlife officials told the Nation it was deeply concerning that none of the female turtles had returned to Phuket and Phang Nga beaches to lay eggs since 2013.
In the past, the Khao Lampi-Hat Thai Mueang National Park in Phang Nga province and the Sirinat National Park in Phuket have been a popular nesting ground for the species.
Coastal development and sea turtle egg poaching are believed to be the primary causes of the turtles’ disappearance.
“These pictures [and videos] prove that the turtles still use Thailand as their nesting ground. Female leatherbacks generally lay about 60-100 eggs at a time. The fact that this turtle laid 93 eggs means she’s extremely healthy,” Dr. Thon continued in his Facebook post.
“Thanks to the locals, wildlife authorities, and national park officials for your constant effort in cleaning up plastic waste.”
Though notorious for being the land of double-bagging, Thailand has arguably cranked up our environmental efforts this year.
After numerous stories about sea creatures in Thailand dying after swallowing plastic waste, Thailand’s National Park Office in June announced a ban on plastic bags and styrofoam containers in the country’s zoos and 154 national parks in an effort to “beat plastic pollution.”
“I’ve been waiting for good news like this for years, while working hard to reduce plastic waste. I admittedly teared up when I heard,” said Dr. Thon
“This gives me hope to keep doing so. I’m so, so happy.”