With Thailand’s Beaches Free Of Tourists, Numbers Of Rare Sea Turtle Nests Jump To 20-Year High

The coronavirus has affected over 4 million people, and thousands of people are dying every day. Well, this virus is actually giving nature a hand. A lot of things changed in nature, and animals have regained their kingdom.

The sky is clearer and our waters are cleaner. Experts at the Phuket Marine Biological Center explain that rare leatherback sea turtles have reemerged on the Thai beaches. There’s an increase of the population of these turtles.

That wasn’t the case last year. About 30-40 million tourists travel to Thailand. These days, travel restrictions and the lockdown guidelines have closed the borders, and turtles are free to roam the beaches.

According to conservationists, about 11 turtle nests have reemerged since November. That’s the highest number in the past two decades.

Turtles were a rare sight in the past decade. Conservationists hadn’t seen a turtle in the past five years. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) explains that the rare turtles are considered endangered.

Experts list pollution, climate change, bad weather and fishing gear as main factors for this problem.

“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans,” Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, said. “If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach.”

“This may have positive impacts on the environment in marine conservation in the long term as well,” Kanokwan Homcha-ai, a supervisor at the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, adds. “Not just sea turtles, but other marine species such as dolphins and dugong that live in the region have also increased in numbers according to government surveys, such as hermit crabs and other food sources for marine animals.”

The turtles are listed as endangered in the area. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and the WWF have classified them as vulnerable. They thrive in soft and sandy beaches, and also need an access from the ocean to lay their eggs.

Female turtles make the nests with their rear flippers. They lay about 100 eggs and backfill the nest to protect their babies. The process is repeated every 10 days.

Leatherback turtles nest in 2-7 years. They prefer quiet and dark areas. Packed beaches are definitely not an option in tourist season.

There’s a similar case in India. Over 475,000 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles laid eggs during the lockdown. In Brazil, about 100 hawksbill sea turtles laid eggs on a beach in Paulista, Pernambuco.

Experts at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Florida have confirmed the existence of 69 sea turtle nests. Most of these were made by leatherback turtles.