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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update May 2012
Our volunteer numbers went up to over 20 during May and what a great time we had. Sadly however, the end of the month saw the end of project for a number of our longer term volunteers. The hardest thing about this job, is definitely saying 'goodbye.' But its always good to know that they left having made life long friends and with memories that will stay with them forever.
On the whole, the volunteers worked really hard over the month, having to deal with working in both searing heat and intense rain storms. Despite these conditions, the volunteers retained their sense of fun and adventure and did not let external factors dampen their spirits or determination to progress the work we do here.
This is what we have been up to this month....
Diving Based Projects:
Reef Check Survey
We surveyed 16 sites over this month, including Koh Door - a first time survey site. The conditions were not great for surveys due to low visibility but things cleared up towards the end of the month.
We had a successful month counting invertebrates, finding some healthy areas of corals, including 27 sea fans at Maya Corner and very large plate coral at Koh Ha, which is fabulous!
We saw some 'big stuff' underwater, including blue spotted sting rays, leopard sharks, black tips reef sharks and dolphins!
Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris Survey
The volunteers carried out 10 trash removal dives at various sites collecting a total of 181kg from the reef and surface. That is a huge amount given that mostly it consists of fishing gear and food wrappers!
We had windy and rainy weather which we believe accounted for the amount of trash washed up on the reef as move trash enters our ocean via the rivers and waterways from the mainland, bringing all the land trash with it.
The most unusual find this month was on Chicken Island when the volunteers brought up a total of 71 mask and snorkels over two dives there!! We think a tourist boat must have dropped them overboard by accident!
The biggest thing we found was a large truck tyre at Koh Yawasam, we believe it must have been fallen off the side of a boat that was using it as a buffer for docking.
We really saw the damaging effect tourism has on our reefs and ocean.
Endangered Species Work
What a month for our monitoring of endangered species! On the first dive of her open water course, Bronwyn, a new volunteer, had some curious dolphins swim by and check her out. Some of our research divers were also lucky enough to encounter these magical creatures underwater, including seeing a baby and mother playing. For those who were not 'in the right place at the right time' not all was lost, as the dolphins stayed around the dive boat for a quite a while, so everyone was able to see them from the surface.
In addition to the dolphins, the research divers encountered turtles and were lucky to get up close and observe a very large hawksbill turtle feeding on sponge.
Land Based Projects:
For some people the start of the rainy season in Thailand is a drag, but for us - we love it!! This is because we are able to push ahead with our reforestation project and get to plant all the tree saplings we have been growing over the dry season in our tree nurseries.
This month, Projects Abroad have proudly sponsored a nature corridor for the endangered bird species, Gurney Pitta. The volunteers helped to dig an impressive 400 holes and plant 400 trees with the local community of Khlong Thom over the month. The aim of this project is to create a corridor of indigenous tree species which will allow this and other bird species, together with other species of insects and animals to cross over the rubber tree and palm oil plantations to mate and breed. Without these corridors, the creatures are cut off from each other and their numbers decline quickly.
We also continued to work with FORRU in the tree nursery at their headquarters and we visited the local school twice to help them take care of their tree nursery and recycle station.
Beach Clean Ups
During May we cleaned the beaches at Ao Nammao and Noppahat Thara National Park. We collected a total of 283.6kg, of which we were able to recycle 64kg.
The most unusual find this month has to be a toilet! No idea where it came from but the volunteers found it proudly sitting on Ao Nammao beach!
As always our presence in the National Park is noticed by the local people and tourists who come up to read our information boards and often try to help us out. We hope that leading by example will help keep these natural areas of beauty clean for everyone to enjoy, whilst keeping the trash out of our ocean and away from the reefs.
Turtle Rehabilitation Work
Our monthly visit to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in Phuket is always a hit with the volunteers - not many people in the world will ever have the opportunity to get so up close and personal with these incredible critters!
This month we heard lots of ahhhhhh's and oooohhhhh's as we got see baby turtles, just 4 days old!
The volunteers helped to clean the turtle holding and breeding tanks, then cleaned the larger turtles and helped the vets apply antiseptic and give the injured turtles medicine.
Community Outreach Day
Staff and volunteers alike had an incredibly moving community outreach this month. We visited the children's ward at the local hospital to play with the sick kids. The volunteers prepared games and activities to do with the children and took with them small gifts.
At first the volunteers were shocked at how basic the ward was, and it really put into perspective how lucky we are with medical facilities in our own countries.
The children really enjoyed our visit, with the puppet show and magic show being a huge success that got everyone laughing, including the parents and nurses!
We celebrated the day's success with a pizza night in Ao Nang.
Vi organised a number of really cool activities in May, including taking the volunteers to Tiger cave Temple, where the volunteers not only got to look around this incredibly beautiful temple complex, but also climbed the 1200+ steps to the mountain top temple, where there are Buddha statues and an awesome panoramic view of Krabi.
The volunteers got to try Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) this month, where they enjoyed a full training session with some title winning professional boxers. One of our long term volunteers, Sven, who is a martial artist himself, took on the owner of the training gym...it was quite a skilful encounter from all accounts! After getting sweaty in the gym, Vi took the volunteers for a walk in nature and to the river where everyone jumped in and spent the afternoon enjoying themselves swimming and relaxing in the jungle!
In addition to the cool activities arranged by Vi this month, the volunteers organised their own overnight trip on the island of Phuket following our monthly visit to the turtle rehabilitation centre based there. They had fun shopping and partying in this busy tourist town.
A great month all in all!
My thanks goes out to all the amazing volunteers and my great team of staff for all their hard work and extra efforts that go into making this project one of the best in the world!
Conservation Director, Thailand