Leatherbacks return to Phuket

Sirinat National Park and a local conservation organization have set up watches to protect leatherback turtles returning to lay eggs on Mai Khao Beach this nesting season. Local residents used to set up camps by the beach and go on ‘turtle walks’ to watch the enormous reptiles clamber ashore and lay their eggs. In recent years, however, the turtles have for the most part stopped coming to Mai Khao, a fact that has been attributed in part to coastal development in the area. But now the leatherbacks seem to be staging a comeback.

“We were very pleased to find that two leatherback turtles had come to lay eggs in January. The two nests had a total of around 145 eggs. We expect more to come in February,” Mr Nonthawit said.

Sirinath National Park, together with local villagers and the Mai Khao Beach Turtle Conservation Group, have set up watches to remain on the lookout for more leatherbacks coming to lay eggs, and to protect any eggs from being stolen and eaten. Mr Nonthawit warned anyone wanting to come and watch the turtles not to make loud noises or light fires on the beach. Leatherbacks are very careful when choosing a nest site and will not come ashore if there are noises and lights, he explained.

Leatherback turtles are classed as critically endangered.

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