Diving & Marine Conservation Volunteering in Thailand - Monthly Updates
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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update February 2012
As our volunteer numbers grew to over 20 during February, we entered into a new phase of conservation work. We embarked on new surveys, projects and workshops around Southern Thailand and enhanced our existing projects by getting out in the community and spreading our important environmental message. We have really needed all the extra hands as our work moves into the next level of helping to protect and sustain this beautiful piece of our planet.
So here is what we have been working on....
Diving Based Projects
Reef Check Survey
With so many volunteers this month, we have been able to collect a lot of valuable data on the indicator species inhabiting our local reefs.
We surveyed eight separate areas around the local islands and Koh Phi Phi.
We noticed that the fish species in the local islands was low this month. We spotted four Crown of Thorns Sea Stars at Losama Bay which is a problem as they can destroy an area of reef over night.
We were lucky to end our month by swimming with 4 hawksbill turtles, who were not bothered by us at all as they lunched on sponges attached to the reef!
Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris Survey
We carried out six surveys in five different dive sites this month. The weather has been consistently calm and sunny, which makes diving more pleasant, but also has an affect on how the trash collects on the reef.
We found a lot of fishing line, and a number of fishing traps as the fishing boats illegally get close to the islands and coral reef. In choppier weather they are too scared to get so close.
Also, on these days we notice that a lot more plastic bags and food wrappers collect from the day trippers and snorkel boats.
We collected a total 43.2 kg of trash from the reef and surface.
Phuket Marine and Biological Centre Monitoring Surveys
This month we started to officially monitor and collect vital data for the scientists based in Phuket. They approached us and asked us to be involved in two data collecting surveys.
The Coral Disease survey involves a team of up to four volunteers who have been specially trained by our in house marine biologist in identifying different types of disease which are threatening the health of the coral reef.
Photos are also taken as a visual record and will be used to compare the growth and spread of these serious coral destroying diseases in our survey areas.
During February we completed our trial for the recording of Endangered Species Sightings. We were able to complete sightings sheets for turtles and dolphins during. Volunteers helped to create an area-wide monitoring system involving all the local dive shops. We have developed a system which now includes all the dive shops recording their sightings. We will collect and collate this data and then report on a monthly basis back to the scientists who will use this information to help find solutions to protect these most amazing sea creatures.
Land Based Projects
We used our time during this month to get school involvement in our forest restoration work. We went to the local school in Klong Thom and built a recycling station and display boards using bamboo.
We helped to collect seeds and potted a few hundred in readiness for the school nursery which we built on 27th February. With over 30 kids helping us we built a large tree nursery in the Klong Thom school and took our potted seeds there for the kids to care for.
This initiative is vital to educating the children about the importance of protecting the native forests. We aim to teach the children to be 'guardians of the forest.' The children are involved in building the nursery, watering and caring for the seeds and saplings, then they will come with us when we plant the trees back into the deforested areas. This, we hope, will give them a sense of pride and ownership of the forests, keeping them safe from development and plantations.
Beach Clean Ups
We had the opportunity to clean the beaches twice this month.
On 10th February we decided to hold our monthly community outreach project with Ao Nammao School and to clean Nopparat Thara National Park beach.
All the volunteers and staff in Thailand (over 70 people in total!) got together to help educate the local kids on the environmental importance of proper rubbish disposal and recycling.
The volunteers put together a fun and informative power point presentation for the kids, they then played a recycling game which the kids loved!
Heading over to the beach, we had over 40 kids come with us. With such an army of eco-warriors, we collected over 300kg of rubbish in less than an hour! The children loved hanging out with our volunteers, practicing their English. The volunteers proved awesome role models for the kids too!
Its on days like this that you see that we are making a difference!
On 17th February, the volunteers asked if we could clean Ao Nammao beach, where our accommodation is based. They began slowly, then by the time they got to the pier area, they hit the jackpot! In just over an hour they carried 273 kg off the beach! We had to use one of our trucks to take all the bags of rubbish to the dump and recycling station. When we got to the dump, they charged us 100 Baht for the privilege of leaving the rubbish there!
Endangered Species Work
Our Turtle Project is proving to be the most popular of all with our volunteers, as we get up close and personal with the turtles at the Turtle Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre in Phuket.
On 23rd February we helped clean the nursing pools and the six small 'hospital' pools. Volunteers helped the vet with cleaning wounds on the turtles and checked their eyes for infections.
After the work was done, Linnea took the volunteers on an educational tour of the aquarium, where the volunteers got to show off their fish i.d. skills as they walked around the tanks.
The volunteers got involved with the national sport of Thailand, Muay Thai (Thai Kick Boxing.) A world title fight was held at the Ao Nang stadium so a number of our volunteers went to watch. Becoming inspired, we organised a Muay Thai training session for the volunteers. Everyone loved it - except for one of the trainers who was accidentally kicked 'below the belt' by Le, one of our female volunteers!
The volunteers took advantage of being in Phuket for the Turtle Project and stayed the night, going bungee jumping and wake boarding the next day.
During the month, Vishal took everyone trekking to the Crystal Cave and up the 1200 steps to see the amazing views from the top of Tiger Cave Temple.
We are now awarding Green Certificates to local businesses who adopt environmentally friendly practices, such as waste disposal, no plastic bags, no stryofoam, attend beach clean ups and so on. We already see over 8 businesses proudly displaying our certificate at their premises. We have an article in the Krabi Magazine letting the tourists and locals know this initiative and asking them to support these businesses. I feel this will be a winning way to create a greener and cleaner place to live and visit.
We are all feeling really excited as our projects gain momentum and our presence here is making a big difference.
So a massive thanks to all the current and past volunteers and I look forward to welcoming all the new volunteers who will be arriving soon.
Conservation Director, Thailand