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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update January - February 2015
2015 has brought lots of new energy to the Conservation team here in Thailand. We have been happy to meet 20 more hard working volunteers and, in February we also welcomed our new project manager, Arturo Toledano who will be in charge of leading the team towards achieving our goals in the many different projects we run in the area.
We know that this year is going to be vital for the conservation team and we are committed to successes in each one of our projects to provide Thailand and their communities with a better and much healthier environment. Thus these first months of January and February are a perfect example of our achievements.
Marine conservation project
In the marine conservation side of our project January and February have proven to be a very productive and crucial months to finalize all the survey techniques. Most of the survey material has been is now completed so the volunteers can enjoy a challenging learning curve with all the materials necessary at their disposal.
Endangered Species Sightings
the endangered species surveys have been carried out consistently throughout these past two months. A total of 70 data logs have been submitted to both our internal database and the Shark Guardian website.
Preliminary analysis of the data indicates a 1 out of 4 chance (25%) of encountering one or more endangered species when diving. Chances of encountering endangered species are significantly higher when diving in Phi Phi islands, as opposed to Local islands (3:1). Chances of encountering Sharks rather than Rays or Turtles are very similar (6:7:6) while encountering more than one type on the same dive is rare (1 in 18 sightings).
Fish Population Survey
These past two months we have finalized the list of species for the fish population surveys which now includes fish from 8 different “families”: four herbivorous grazers (Butterflyfish, Parrotfish, Rabbitfish, Surgeonfish) and four economically important predators (Barracuda, Groupers, Jacks, Snappers). The most common fish from each family are identified down to species, up to a maximum of 8 different species per family.
All the volunteers are provided with special training booklets during both the fish ID training and the surveys themselves to clear any possible momentary doubt.
9 volunteers have successfully completed the training and proceeded to gather data. 5 volunteers are currently being trained. A total of 43 data logs have been submitted, yielding a considerable amount of data.
Dive Against Debris
Trash collection has proceeded consistently throughout these past two months totaling 20kg of debris removed from the sea. Apart from the occasional small net, fishing line, can or bottle, there has been no major trash presence, with one exception. On the 28th of January we received a report of a big trawling net on Koh Talu. After locating it, we carefully removed all sea life that was entangled and surfaced the net. Luckily, it had only been there for a couple days so it did not have the time to entangle a big number of marine creatures or cause any significant damage.
During the January and February 13 volunteers became open water divers and continued to be advanced open water divers during their stay with the project. 6 volunteers who were already certified as Open Water Divers did both their Advanced Open Water Diver and Rescue Diver course with us. And 1 volunteer, who was already an Advanced Open Water Diver, did her Rescue Diver course and Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty.
One long-stay student has started his Divemaster course in February. This is done as a try-out for the soon to be offered Divemaster Internship, but is not yet part of our offered course programs.
We had a total of 24 diving days (3 diving days per week). We visted the Phi Phi Island area but also Krabi Local Islands. There was also time to visit the new artificial coral reef set up in Ko phi phi which will allow together with the volunteers to make further comparable studies between the different areas.
16 January 2015, Projects Abroad conservation volunteers travelled to Koh Klang island in the Krabi River estuary to spend the day helping the Mangrove Action Project (MAP) restoring an abandoned shrimp farm back into a mangrove. This site is getting to the observation stage, so volunteers identified the different mangroves that were growing and the different species that are living there. Later that day, volunteers and more than a few local community members, work continued on the hydrology restoration of this abandoned pond. The combined efforts of the multi-national team using shovels and broad hoes effectively continued the work of digging canals through the center of the pond for tidal water access without the use of heavy machinery.
On February 13th, 2015, Projects Abroad conservation volunteers joins MAP at Koh Klang, this time to prevent goats grazing on the mangrove seedlings. Grazing livestock often makes mangrove restoration difficult where animals are free roaming, due to browsing and trampling. In such cases, site protection by excluding grazers is required so natural recovery can occur. We were forced to fence the site as a last resort as we tried to use a deeper outer water channel initially that proved inefficient with goats in our case. In some locations of the world green fencing may be possible to protect mangroves.
Beach clean up
Projects Abroad has been partnering with Trash Hero. Together with Trash Hero we are aiming for a better waste management and clean beaches in the Ao Nang area. Thus both organizations have partnered up to create sustainable, community-based projects that remove existing waste & reduce future waste by inspiring long-term behavior change.
Our conservation volunteers participate once to twice a month a Beach Survey at Nopparathara beach followed by a beach clean up. After the activity, all the data is being inputted into the system.
In the last two months, volunteers have collected more than 500kg of trash. It is important to take actions and create awareness among us all. Therefore we back up hands-on experience with educational information about the impact that trash has on the global environment to schools in the Ao Nang area.
Education and Awareness
These first two months of the year, we’ve been working with the children of school (Klong Moung School ) teaching children teaching them about the importance of Recycling.
With the help of our volunteers we made a presentation which explained why do we need to recycle, why it is so important and what could we do with the trash that can be recycled. After the theory we made “Piggy Banks” out of plastic bottles to be an example of what they can do with regular things around them and that they can turn them to something useful.
In the following weeks we went back to school to reinforce the recycling concept and organized a big beach cleanup with the children. The children learnt which objects are recyclable or trash like cans and plastic bottles and non-recyclable material, In 40 minutes of a beach cleanup we collected 50 kg of trash in 200 meters.
Sea turtles project
This New Year 2015 we continued working with Phuket Marine Biological Center (PBMC) and PBMC which gives the volunteers the opportunity to learn more about the problems that the sea turtles face nowadays. Together with the PBMC personal the volunteers helped with cleaning turtle tanks, applied medicine on juvenile turtles, as well as observed tube feeding for a non-eating rehabilitating turtle.
Next stop was the Phuket Aquarium, where the volunteers had a closer look into the fish morphology that they have been learning about during their survey workshops. They completed a scavenger hunt that included answering questions regarding specific fish found there and drawing fish anatomy and markings as they see them swimming through the exhibitions.
Thailand National Children’s Day
Every year on the second Saturday of January, Thailand celebrates National Children’s Day with the aims of creating awareness about their important role in the development of their country.
One theme accompanies every Children’s Day, and this year’s theme was, “Knowledge and morality leads us to a great future”. Many organizations from both the governmental and commercial sectors organize activities for the children so they could have a great fun that day. Children were allowed to visit the zoo and go on busses for free; government offices were also open for children and their families to visit.
During Children’s Day, conservation and community volunteers came together to participate in and outreach activity with children from the local community.
Conservation volunteers put together town fun activities for the children, on teaching them the first steps about being diver and the second a memory game about the ocean. And community volunteers taught the children to make homemade ice cream and played game with them the kids had a lot of fun!
Panting Wat Klong Son temple
As Projects Abroad understands the importance of giving back to the local community in February we started a new project to improve the temple of Wat Klong Son which is near Klong Muang beach. This project will take us a few months of hard work but the result is worthwhile.
In the month of February we started cleaning the surrounding of the Pra u-boh-Sot (Buddhist ordination hall) and painting the side walls of the building.
Volunteers also had the chance to learn the 5 positions bow and got brifeing on how to behave while they are working in the temple are. After the work was finished, all volunteers went to get blessed. Amazingly, the monk was surprised to see how our volunteers know how to bow the Buddha perfectly, behave so well and pay a lot of respect to the place. Well done guys, we are so proud of you.