With Thailand’s Beaches Free Of Tourists, Numbers Of Rare Sea Turtle Nests Jump To 20-Year High

Numerous videos and photos shared on social media these days show that the coronavirus pandemic has one advantage- Nature uses the peace and quiet to recover.

Animals have been seen freely roaming their natural habitats now, due to the lockdowns governments issued in the attempt to flatten the curve and fight the dangerous COVID-19.

People claim the skies in many busy cities are much clearer now, waters are pure and clean, and the air pollution is dramatically reduced.

According to the Phuket Marine Biological Center, the emergency measures in Thailand have contributed to the largest increase in nests of rare leatherback sea turtles on the beaches in the last two decades.

Every year, around 30-40 million international tourists visit Thailand. Yet, this year, travel restrictions and lockdown measures have stopped the flow of visitors, so the Thai beaches are empty.

That is, apparently, ideal for nature and its wildlife. Conservationists reported that authorities have found 11 turtle nests since last November, which is the highest number in the last 20 years.

They haven’t seen a single turtle nest in the past five years.  According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), these turtles are endangered by various factors as well, including pollution, climate change, severe weather, and fishing gear.

Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, the director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, explained:

“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans. If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach.”

Kanokwan​ Homcha-ai, a supervisor at the Mai​ Khao Marine Turtle​ Foundation, added:

“This may have positive impacts on the environment in marine conservation in the long term as well. Not just sea turtles, but other marine species such as dolphins and dugong that live in the region have also increased in numbers according to government surveys, such as hermit crabs and other food sources for marine animals.”

These turtles are the largest in the world, and are classified as endangered in Thailand, and as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the WWF. They need soft, sandy beaches with broad access from the ocean for nesting.

Females create the nests with their rear flippers and then leave about 100 eggs inside. To protect them from predators, these turtles then backfill them. They repeat this every 10 days.

They nest to in intervals ranging from two to seven years. When the beaches are full of tourists, the eggs are laid in quiet and dark areas, which are very difficult to find.

Since the global pandemic, this is not the only success story about sea turtles. Namely, in India’s eastern coast, more 475,000 endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles dug nests and laid their eggs this year.

In Brazil, nearly 100 hawksbill sea turtles hatched on a beach in the Brazilian town of Paulista, Pernambuco, and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Florida has recently reported that this year, they have already counted 69 sea turtle nests, most of them belonging to leatherbacks.

We all needed some good news, didn’t we?