Out to Sea – Turtles Clearing Hurdles

Thai New Year celebrated with turtle release event

A new year symbolically marks a fresh start, and that was the hope for some green turtle hatchlings this Songkran (the Thai New Year). Every Songkran the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation sponsors a turtle release event at Mai Khao Beach on Phuket Island with sponsorship form the Marriott Phuket Resort. This year Andaman Discoveries’ team member Leslie Welshimer had the opportunity to release a baby turtle on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

At about noon on April 13, attendees gathered around a shaded pond with lively turtles. A 300 Baht donation, which will go towards protecting the turtle’s habitat, earned Leslie a red bowl containing a new friend: a lively sea turtle. “I couldn’t bring myself to place the small turtle in the water. He seemed far too sweet for the vast, wild ocean. My fiancé, Jesse stepped up to the plate, took the red bowl and gently placed our turtle on the sand. Before I could say goodbye, a wave came in and took him out to sea,” she said.

According to the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, during the breeding season from November to February, sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Their numbers have been increasingly depleted during the last 20 years. The local Mai Khao villagers dedicate efforts to protect the sea turtles. The villagers take the eggs to their hatchery where the baby turtles are protected from elements of nature and human exploitation. Local villagers also patrol the beach at night during the breeding season, to protect the turtles while nesting, and keep records of the number of eggs laid. Each year, the turtles are then released in a special ceremony during the Songkran festival (Thai New Year).

“Participating in an event to help raise awareness about the sea turtles that call Mai Khao home, was a great way to celebrate Thai New Year,” Leslie said.