Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update June 2012
Wow! I cannot believe we are half way through the year already! I guess time flies when you are having fun and saving the planet!
June was a fantastic month for us here on the Thailand Conservation Project – we got to be involved in some great community events and worked closely with our partners, government agencies and local environmental groups throughout the entire month.
The highlight of the month was when we were visited by Sony Entertainment Pictures from Los Angeles, who stayed with us for a week, filming a documentary on volunteering abroad. They followed the volunteers from dawn until dusk, taking footage of all the amazing work we do to help preserve this beautiful part of the world.
There is so much to share this month, so let me begin.....
Diving Based Projects:
Reef Check Survey
The weather during June was to both extremes. We had glorious sunshine with excellent visibility, then thunder and lightening storms with very low visibility. In fact one week of diving was cancelled due to bad weather, but we made up for it by diving on the weekend instead.
Being the hardcore eco-warriors that we are, even the bad conditions did not deter us as we carried out 9 Reef Check surveys this month.
There is mixed news on what our survey showed us….the good news is that we counted lots of long spine black urchins and schooling reef fish which are vital for maintaining a healthy reef and eco-system. We also got lucky and spotted a massive cow tail ray, which has never been seen in the area before! Whilst some lucky divers got to see an octopus, which are really tough to spot as they are inherently shy and masters of camouflage.
The bad news is the amount of fishing boats in the areas we were surveying, together with all the nets, lines and fishing gear that they left on the reef, causing irreparable damage to the corals and fish life that relies on the corals for survival. In fact, there was so much trash spotted during our research dives, that we made a note of the areas to go back to clean them.
Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris Survey
Given all the fishing gear, traps and nets we were spotting during our Reef Check dives, we cleared the trash from 10 different dive sites both underwater and on the surface.
We collected over ¼ tonne of discarded fishing nets and traps, together with over 15 kilos of food wrappers and general trash.
The fishing nets get snagged on the coral reef and the fishermen pull hard to bring them up, breaking off and killing the corals. When the nets are too caught up on the reef, they cut them and leave them there. On the last dive of the month, we cut away over 150kg of net from the reef, freeing a scorpion fish, 3 crabs and a hermit crab that had become entangled in the net and would have died if our life-saving volunteers had not come to their rescue.
In addition to the nets, we collected mainly fishing lures, fishing line and fishing traps.
Endangered Species Work
The dolphins and turtles were hiding this month! We hope to record sightings next month.
Land Based Projects:
The volunteers participated in a mixed bag of work with APE (Association for the Protection of the Environment) this month.
The first week, we met up with the local community of Klong Thom Village to plant over 400 trees along the roadside. The Sony film crew were there to capture our hard work on film.
We helped make educational display boards out of locally sourced bamboo for our school environmental education programme, then at the end of the month we visited Klong Thom School to work with the children on making hundreds of planting discs for the tree saplings that we will be planting in July.
The forestry experts from FORRU and Chiang Mai University came to visit us at the Dawn of Happiness to take a look at our tree nursery and hold their monthly workshop with us. We sorted and potted seeds with them and they showed us how to plant successfully and collect data.
Beach Clean Ups
Our anti-trash campaign saw us clean four times over the month, collecting an incredible 833kg of trash from local beaches. Of this amount we were able to recycle 110kg and safely disposed of 24kg of sharp/dangerous items.
It is always interesting to see the trends of the type of trash we collect each month. In June, just like the Dive Against Debris survey, we found a lot of fishing gear. Sadly we also found dead crabs and fish entangled in the washed up nets and a disused fishing trap with dried up squid eggs attached.
For our last clean up of the month, we worked with Kon-tiki Dive Shop and local school children ages 3 to 14, to clean Ao Nang beach to promote the importance of keeping Krabi clean and trash free seas.
Turtle Rehabilitation Work
The volunteers did double work this month! Not only did they clean out the turtle tanks and help administer medication to the injured turtles, but they also help clean the beach in the front of the Phuket Aquarium! The scientists and staff were really grateful for this extra effort.
Linnea gave an educational tour of the aquarium to the volunteers too.
Community Outreach Day
There were a few tears shed during our Community Outreach Day this month. All the Thailand volunteers and staff (together with the Sony film crew) went to the Day Care Centre for Children with Special Needs. The volunteers put on a puppet show and play about Little Red Riding Hood, then gave the children gifts and toys. We ate lunch with the children, helping to feed those with physical disabilities, and then we played with them until it was time to leave.
It was a very humbling, yet rewarding experience for all of us – it moved every one of us deeply.
We had Christian Clark from the Projects Abroad USA office come visit us in June. We were proud to show off our project and let him experience first hand the important nature of all the work we carry out here. He was really impressed with the project and how hard the volunteers work
The Krabi Fisheries Department invited us to join them in the Crab and Sea Snail release in the newly protected Mangrove Forest Zone along the Krabi River. We listened to official speeches (translated into English especially for us by some school children) then headed onto longtail boats to set the critters free in the mangroves.
At the end of the month, we conducted our first Survey in conjunction with the Loving Andaman Seas organisation. We asked tourists and local shop keepers to complete a questionnaire about the cleanliness of Ao Nang and the sea front. The purpose of collecting this information is to present a petition to the local Government so that they take more responsibility for keeping the area clean and safe. The volunteers did an amazing job, completing100 questionnaires in one afternoon... we have another 500 to collect before we can officially lobby the authorities in September!
On the social side, following the trip to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, the volunteers chose to spend the weekend on the island of Phuket, so Vi arranged for them to go bungee jumping and wake boarding there! The photos are great – check them out on our facebook page: Projects Abroad Thailand – The Official Group.
Well done everyone on making June a fabulously memorable month and thanks for all the amazing things you helped to achieve
‘Til next time...
Conservation Director, Thailand