Marine Conservation – Sea Turtles
Being that we are on Koh Tao, which in Thai language means Turtle Island, what better marine conservation topic we could find, to talk about this month, than the sea turtle. Any scuba divers lucky enough to spend some time with these majestic creatures, really know that their persona from “Finding Nemo”, is right on the money! Turtles are the surfer dudes of the ocean, spending their lives ridding ocean currents between their feeding and their breeding grounds. If you get up close to a sea turtle you will have an amazing moment when they turn their head to look at you and you can almost hear them say “DUDE!!”
Sea Turtle Species
There is a total of 7 different species of sea turtles, actually there are 8, if you count the Black Turtle as a different species than the Green Turtle. The species are Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Olive Ridley Turtle, Kemps Ridley, Flat Back and the giant of the family the Leather Back Turtle. Here on Koh Tao we are mostly frequented by the Green and the Hawksbill Turtle though rear you also catch a glimpse of a Loggerhead, Leatherback or a Ridley passing through the area.
Endangerment of Sea Turtles
Unfortunately for the sea turtle, all 7 species are listed as endangered and with only 1% of sea turtle hatchlings ever making it to sexual maturity, it is very important that anyone visiting an area with turtles obey some simple rules. If you are lucky enough to see a nesting female crawling on to the beach to lay eggs, please do not disturb her in anyway. Keep some distance, avoid flash photography and loud noises these things can cause her to false crawl, a term used when a turtle abandons nesting, and returns to the ocean. Once the turtle has laid its eggs, report the location to the local body in charge of turtle conservation, so that they can protect the nest from predators and poachers. On Koh Tao contact “Save Koh Tao”.
If you have accommodation by the beach please turn your lights off at night when not in use, they can cause turtle hatchlings to crawl in the wrong direction. As cute as baby turtles are I’m sure you would prefer to see them wonder into the ocean and not towards your bungalow.
Do Not Purchase Products made from Sea Turtles!
The trades of turtle related products is illegal in most developed countries, and while you may be able to purchase the product legally while traveling through a developing country, you will more than likely be arrested and fined the second you go through customs in your own country. Even after your holiday you can still do your part to help protect the sea turtle, by simply limiting the amount of plastic you use in your daily life, and make sure it is properly recycled. An overwhelming amount of plastic makes it into the ocean every year, once in the ocean the poor turtles mistake the plastic for jellyfish; This is the cause of far to many turtle deaths every year and could be avoided by the responsible treatment of plastic. Please remember plastic is forever! It is not a disposable item it has to be recycled!
No Turtles for Food!
When purchasing seafood make sure that it is from a sustainable ecological company, another cause of sea turtle death is by catch in large fishing nets. Turtles are air breathing animals and while able to hold their breath for a long time they still need to return to the surface to breath. Once caught in a net turtles become stressed and use their air very quickly and with no way to return to the surface eventually they will drown!
Sea Turtle Conservation
All is not lost though for the sea turtle; there are many amazing people and agencies throughout the world working for the conservation of the oceans little surfer dude. Just do a Google search for “turtle conservation” and you will encounter many amazing stories of hope and a wealth. Think of way you can get involved in turtle conservation. For those looking at holidaying on Koh Tao in April be sure to head down to the Save Koh Tao festival where we have a turtle hatchling release in conjunction with the Thailand Department of Marine Conservation.