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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update January/March 2009
The beginning of the year has been very active here in AoNang with no less than 10 volunteers and up to 16! These volunteers were full of energy and imagination and have come up with a new tradition: everyone has to dress up (or down!) for a volunteer's last dive. It started with some pretty pink dresses and other outfits and we then had a random selection of animal hats, underwear and other Thai Boxing outfits!
Another big change for our project was our moving at the beginning of the month to new accommodation in Klong Muang and our change of dive boat as we now get instruction and dive equipment rental from Kon Tiki.
Another big change was the arrival of Lek, our new Field Coordinator in mid-January. Lek is from the East of Thailand but has lived in Krabi for the last 10 years. She is now getting the Divemaster training so on behalf of the entire Projects Abroad team I would like to say welcome and good luck!
Over the last three months, we visited 7 different sites for beach clean-ups. The total collected weights for January, February and March were 790, 725 and 1003kg respectively (see graph). Some of the beaches were new sites such as Koh Nok (Bird Island) where we had done some bird watching and had felt the need to come back and clean.
We also went to Tup Kaek beach for the first time. This is not far from Klong Muang and is similarly bordered on some parts by luxurious resorts and mostly unused for the rest. Again, it is rather clean near the resorts but very much neglected elsewhere. At this latter site we broke our record for the three months with over 515kg and were not able to finish the work due to little time and will return soon.
Some of the more unusual items found included a TV set, parts of a bed and sadly many dead or dying animals such as sea cucumber, boxfish and crocodile fish.
The last three months have been rather busy in terms of marine salvage: usually during the high season, we get many phone calls from dive companies that have sited fishing nets or other debris and let us know so that we can try to go and get it in time.
The main sites that we worked at were Koh Samet and Hin Bida where giant nets had been spotted. As usual we found many corals, crabs, featherstars and sometimes even fish entangled in the net and it was a tedious job to remove it all without causing anymore damage.
Another divemaster reported a trapped turtle that he was able to free. That was very lucky as turtles have little time to escape since they need to get to the surface to breathe.
Our total collected weights for January, February and March were 50, 33 and 44kg respectively (see graph).
Reef surveys and special sightings
Over the last 3 months we carried out 12 Reef Watch surveys and 8 fish surveys. We also assessed an area for seahorse release which consisted in identifying host seafans, measuring them and recording information such as depth, colour, etc. Mia and Mariana, the artists of the group then produced a map showing all 12 seafans which we can use to release the seahorses and carefully monitor their survival.
We also went to Bida Nok where many Crown of Thorns (COTs) had been spotted. This starfish eats corals and can do severe damage when population size gets too big as has happened recently in the local area or more dramatically on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia which is much threatened by the echinoderm.
When we observe large numbers of this starfish we remove them from the reef by stabbing them with sharpened bamboo sticks and bring them back to the surface where they die of desiccation.
An average reef of the size of Bida Nok should have between 3 and 5 COTs while we removed 50 in just 1 dive!
Special sightings included:
- A new resident Clown triggerfish at Losamah Bay
- Khul's stingray
- Leopard sharks
- Blacktip reef shark
- Bamboo shark
- Hawksbill turtles
- Devil scorpionfish
- Sponge crab
- Cleaner pipefish
- Longnose filefish
- Scribbled filefish
- Ghost pipefish
- Warty frogfish
Finally, one of the best times we had on the boat was when a dozen dolphins swam and jumped around the boat and we all got the cameras out to try to get THE photo that no one got.
We started the year continuing to collect seeds and saw a total of 450 seeds in our nursery. Mostly Ceriops tagal, a species which we had used previously and a new species Brugueria mucronata which is not as common and rather important as it belongs to the Rhizophora group (red mangroves with prop roots) that helps maintain land stability on the banks of klongs (mangrove canals). The volunteers also did a great job of repairing the bridge which I could now cross with closed eyes.
The rest of the work consisted in maintaining the weeds down and the flow in the klongs which tend to get filled with all sorts of debris. These are very important to the whole ecosystem and many mangroves rehabilitation works fail because they do not have the proper water system as we learned during a bio-workshop with Dominic Whodehouse from Wetlands International followed by a kayaking trip to a healthy mangrove system in BorThor.
We also carried on with our bird census and spotted the usual egrets and herons and also some kites and king fishers.
In addition to the presentation by Dominic Whodehouse and kayak excursion in the mangroves, we had 2 other bio-worshops.
The first one was to help at the Krabi fisheries department which houses a project of fish and other marine animals breeding for release into the wild. We were first given a presentation of their work and showed the many different species which they breed. Later we helped feeding some of the fish and move some from one pond to another (very funny mission!).
The second bio-workshop was given by Marina Fey who is the local contact for DAN (Divers Alert Network), who provides support to injured divers and runs most of the recompression chambers throughout the world. She gave a presentation on first aid and accident prevention related to diving and in the afternoon we practiced some first aid and resuscitation skills. At the end of the day, everyone got a certificate for their participation.
You can see more information here of our graphs of the amount of rubbish the volunteers have collected from the reefs and beaches here in Ao Nang over 2009 - impressive work.
Director for Thailand Conservation
21 April 2009