04 June 2020
Increased and unusual sightings of sea life have emerged in Thailand, which scientists attribute to the absence of tourists and fishing boats during the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Captain Charlie Dwyer and Gordon Fernandes, co-founders of Asia Pacific Superyachts.
As reported by Reuters, The Phuket News and other media, a fisherman in the Gulf of Thailand enjoyed a rare encounter with pink dolphins, which scientists say are becoming bolder in the absence of tourists. Pink dolphins are extremely rare yet are appearing more often in the Gulf Thailand, near Koh Phangan and Khanom by Koh Samui.
Fisherman Chaiyot Saedan recently provided a video of his experience to Reuters, showing the three pink dolphins swimming close to a fishing boat in calm waters off Koh Phangan, a neighbouring island of Koh Samui. He remarked, “I was so impressed because I never imagined I would get to see pink dolphins.”
“Due to less traffic with the coronavirus lockdown, dolphins now have a more comfortable habitat, and that’s why they tend to show up more.”
Khanom is an island in the southern Surat Thani province near Koh Samui and is recognised as a home for pink dolphins. There are just 150 of these pink dolphins living around the Gulf of Thailand, according to the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre.
Observing pink dolphins along the coastline shows that the environment is clean with a healthy ecosystem. Thailand’s pink dolphins are a subspecies of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union For Conservation of Nature.
Other sightings include the hatching of 200 baby turtles born at the beach in front of the Banyan Tree Samui on Koh Samui.
Between April 4 and 24, three nests hatched on the secluded beach at Banyan Tree Samui resort, and a total of around 200 baby turtles emerged under the watchful gaze of the hotel’s resident marine biologist, Thepsuda Loyjiw.
Staff at the hotel made the discovery of nests on the beach in front of the hotel early in March. Since a giant mother turtle laid her eggs on the beach, they’ve matured in the protective custody of Loyjiw’s team and the local Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
It was heartwarming to watch the baby turtles being born and then scurrying to the sea.
Ever since the mother turtle laid her eggs on our beach, we have been protecting them from predators such as birds and monitor lizards, gauging the temperature of the eggs to make sure the hatchlings have every chance of survival.”
Some Thai beaches have seen the largest number of turtle nests in two decades, according to Kanokwan Homcha-ai, a supervisor at the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation. Homcha-ai said in a telephone interview with CNN on Monday that researchers have found eleven sea turtle nests on Phuket, the highest number of nests in Thailand in twenty years. Phuket is Thailand’s most popular resort island, and a major tourist attraction has been on a strict lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“This may have a positive impact on the environment in marine conservation in the long term as well,” Homcha-ai said.
“Not just sea turtles, but other marine species such as dolphins and dugong that live in the region, as well as hermit crabs and other food sources for marine animals, have also increased in numbers according to a government survey.”
On 3 May, while Than Bok Khorani National Park staff were checking the area, they came across dozens of blacktip reef sharks swimming and feeding along the shores of Koh Hong in Krabi province.
They reported that there could be a group of up to fifty blacktip reef sharks with a body length of almost a metre. They were happily chasing after mullet around the shores of Koh Hong. It’s a rare sight, according to marine officials and the second time in the past month after the closure of Than Bok Khorani National Park in Krabi province due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The headman of Koh Hong National Park Protection Unit explained that a group of blacknose sharks and a variety of fish began to swim and seek food along the beach. Before, they would hunt in deep coral reefs.
“This phenomenon shows the abundance of nature and ecosystems. Combined with no disturbance from human activities, we are sighting sea creatures that haven’t been near the coastline in a long time return.”
Dugongs have been seen frolicking off the coast of Trang, a pod of false killer whales appeared near Koh Lanta, and endangered leatherback sea turtles have been laying eggs on beaches in numbers not seen in years.
Captain Dwyer and Gordon Fernandes commented, “The absence of tourism and fishing boats due to the COVID-19 crisis has brought about a thriving resurgence of sea and marine life to Thailand. There are lessons to be learned from the way wildlife is thriving now.”