Chief Prarop Plangngarn, Chief of the Phuket Marine National Park Operations Center 2, based at Sirinath Marine National Park, told The Phuket News that a “turtle patrol” found turtle tracks in the sand at about 7pm last night.
The officers, from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR), followed the tracks to where they stopped on the beach, where the officers believed the turtle laid eggs, Mr Prarop explained.
Instead of attempting to excavate the nest in the dark, officers were stationed to watch over the nest site all through the night. Experts arrived early this morning and began digging, and confirmed that the site was indeed a turtle nest, he added.
The officers this morning confirmed at least eight eggs in the nest, but ceased digging at about 80cm deep to make sure they did not disturb the nest further.
“We decided to leave the eggs there and we set up a fence to protect them,” Mr Prarop said.
Mr Prarop did not estimate how many eggs may have been in the Sai Kaew nest. Sea turtles usually lay clutches ranging from 50 to more than 100 eggs at a time.
“According to the tracks found, the mother measured some 150cm across. By the size of the tracks, this turtle was not the same one that laid eggs on Nai Thon Beach [on Jan 10],” Mr Prarop said.
The decision to leave the eggs in the nest on the beach came at the behest of Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, Chief of the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), Mr Prarop explained.
“By the time we found the nest, the eggs had already been there about three to four days. They had already started to develop,” Mr Kongkiat told The Phuket News.
“I advised the team to leave the nest untouched and let the turtles hatch undisturbed over there. If the team moved the eggs, it could have adversely affected them,” he added.
“The nest is now protected by a fence around it, and the there are officers from Sirinath National Park and the PMBC assigned to watch of it for the next 56 days or so, until the eggs hatch,” Dr Kongkiat said.
The same decision to leave turtle eggs in place on the beach was made for another turtle nest found on Bor Dan Beach in Thai Muang, Phang Nga, north of Phuket, yesterday (Jan 19).
The Bor Dan nest found yesterday marked the sixth nest found in the area since the first turtle was spotted laying eggs at Thai Muang on Nov 17. The first of those eggs hatched on Thai Muang Beach at 8:30pm on Saturday, with a host of people looking on.
Of the 55 eggs laid, 30 hatched, with 24 making it to the sea, and the remaining six being too weak and taken into care. (See DMCR report here.)
The nest on Sai Kaew beach marked the second turtle nest found on a Phuket beach in a matter of weeks.
After years of turtles not being spotted laying eggs on any beaches along Phuket’s west coast, a large leather back returned to lay eggs on Nai Thon Beach on Jan 10. (See story here.)
“This is the most confirmed turtle nests we have seen in the past seven years,” Dr Kongkiat said.
Dr Kongkiat also praised the efforts by local people and the officers at Sirinat National Park.
“Thank you to everyone for all their hard work to find ways to protect turtle nests, especially Chief Prarop, who works hard behind the scenes,” Mr Kongkiat said.
Additional Reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub