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Turtle Shelter & Education Centre opens in Mai Khao

Many islanders continue to express concern for the welfare of marine life in the Andaman Sea, but words often lack appropriate action. One exceptional exception is the the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation (MKMTF) in Mai Khao, which The Phuket News recently had the pleasure of visiting.

By Dalia Hilmi

Sunday 8 November 2015, 09:00AM

After 13 years of dedicated marine turtle conservation in Phuket, the MKMTF, in partnership with the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC) last July opened the doors to the Turtle Shelter & Education Centre at the JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa on the Mai Khao Beach, one of the only beaches left in Phuket where marine turtles continue to lay their eggs.

There are currently three young green turtles living permanently at the shelter. Each was born at the PMBC hatchery division and were born disabled. They would not have survived if they were released into the wild due to their physical problems. The turtles thus live in a protected environment with a dedicated facility and team to ensure their complete wellbeing.

Tommy lives with Jerry Junior and Kiew. Tommy and Kiew are nearly three years old and Jerry is one and a half.

The MKTMF Shelter was originally built for Tommy who was born blind. Had he been born in the wild he would have most likely died at birth. However, Tommy was born in captivity at the PMBC and they immediately identified him as being blind and have worked with the MKMTF ever since to develop this special care facility for him so he can live a healthy, happy and long life. Jerry Junior is a 3.8kg green turtle who was born with a deformed shell and Kiew is a 17kg green turtle with guidance problems.

The shelter is a showcase cuttingedge conservation project, a multistakeholder platform involving government, NGO and private sector partners. The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and the Phuket Marine Biological Centre maintain control of the shelter and turtles, the shelter is operated by the MKMTF and overseen by the global voice of nature, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Royal Thai Navy protect the eggs and ensures they reach the hatchery safely, the private sector partners Marriott, Marriott Vacation World and Anantara Hotels and Resorts, who started the foundation 13 years ago, continue to fund its operations. Every year together with the DMCR, PMBC and the Royal Thai Navy, the MKMTF release 200 oneyear-old green turtles for an aggressive conservation strategy; this ensures turtle numbers in the Andaman Sea will increase in years to come.

The shelter is key in educating not only guests of the hotel, but also members of the public about how beneficial the shelter has been, and will be in helping and nurturing turtles. During our visit, The Phuket News saw first-hand how much of an impact the shelter can have on children and tourists. Allowing children to see and understand the importance of the shelter will have great effects on them later on and the children’s genuine interest and mesmerisation of the turtles is a reflection on how crucial it is to educate children from a young age.

Sean Panton, Director of CSR, explained that the shelter is a great way for kids to come and learn about turtle biology and conservation. He gives the kids a personalised education session, showing them Tommy, Jerry, and Kiew, as well as telling them all about green sea turtles, turtles around Thailand and the foundation in general.

“We love having kids, both tourists and the kids from the schools across the island, come in and ask loads of questions. It’s great that the kids show so much interest and we love to be able to inform them about the turtles and the foundation.” The foundation has a very aggressive education component for children and adults, they host a school every week at the shelter to teach and inspire them to protect and conserve nature and of course, marine turtles. The children that complete the education are certified I.U.C.N Turtle Warriors and are then ready to educate their friends and parents about these beautiful endangered species.

The shelter is open to the public on weekdays upon appointment only. Turtle feeding is at 11am on weekdays and the shelter is closed on weekends. Since the shelter launched in July, they have had over 900 guests visit each month from over 45 countries all to learn about marine turtle conservation in Thailand. With so many visitors in such a short space of time, there’s no
doubt the shelter will continue to help such a deserving cause as well as act as a great tourist attraction.

If you wish to meet the turtles or support the foundation visit the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation Facebook page or email



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