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Phuket turtles are going swimmingly with help from new technology

Phuket Chips Track Turtles' Swim for Safety

Thursday, April 16, 2009
MICROCHIPS have gone to sea with turtles released along the Andaman this Songkran holiday season.

The chips will enable researchers at the Marine Endangered Species Unit, based on Phuket, to track the newly freed turtles for the first time.

Seasonal releases took place at Thai Muang in Phang Nga last week and Mai Khao beach on Phuket this week.

''The chips will tell us how the turtles fare,'' said Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, ot Phuket's Marine Biology Centre.

''If they run into fishing nets, and we are sure that many do, we will know.

''And if some are lucky enough to get through, and to grow, we will know that, too.''

Thai Muang a 13-kilometre stretch of sand that has yet to experience the scale of development of Phuket, is still a place where turtles return to lay eggs.

But the balance is extremely fine these days, with more people in the region.

The scientists need to know when turtles are spotted, so their eggs can be protected.

Phuketwan had reports last year of construction workers digging up eggs on the beach to eat.

''We are still hoping that turtles can be encouraged, but they do need quiet places. Shining even a torch at them, for example, can make them turn back out to sea.''

Under a new scheme, people wishing to release turtles at any time can contact Dr Kongkiat to arrange a visit to the Thai Muang turtle centre.

A report that a rare leatherback turtle laid eggs on Phuket last year has also raised hopes that turtles of all kinds may return to the island.

However, bright lights and noise from development are serious deterrents.

Contact: Dr Kongkiat 084 6298803


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