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Conservation in Thailand - Monthly Update August 2011
We have had an amazing month here and, as always, our volunteers leave with a sense of pride, achievement and knowledge that they have made a difference.
We have achieved a great deal on an international scale over the last month, with our projects going global. We have forged new and exciting collaborations with international environmental organisations, whilst deepening and strengthening existing relationships with our local partners and within the local community.
So let me bring you up to speed...
Diving Based Projects
Reef Check Survey
Our year round Reef Check Survey is in full swing. Linnea, our in house marine biologist, has been personally training all our volunteers on reef survey techniques, setting transect lines and data collection.
Our solid teams of dedicated volunteers are given specific surveys to conduct as we monitor established sites around the islands off the coast of Krabi and Koh Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea. Already with the amount of data we have collected, this promises to become a very successful year as we are seeing a steady growth in the type of data we are collecting.
During August, our volunteers were lucky enough to spot 2 hawksbill turtles during the survey at Maya Corner. These beautiful creatures were once common here, but have become an unusual sighting in recent years. Also a very large school of beautiful Moorish Idols swam by when surveying Koh Ya Wa Bon.
Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris Survey
This month saw our first official Dive Against Debris salvage dives, where we recorded trash removed from the reef and surface.
We have carried out four dives so far, mainly bringing up fishing line, nets, tackle, plastic bags and containers. We have been to Koh Yawasam twice and interestingly on both occasions we found debris which had been used by the marine life for other purposes! Firstly we found an abandoned fishing trap, with cuttle fish eggs attached to it. We cut the netting so as to free the trapped fish, then left the trap there. On 18th August, we returned to the site and the eggs had hatched, so we were able to bring it up for disposal.
The second item was an inner tube which was covered in sponges and crustose red algae, so we left that as it had already become a 'home.'
We have also been snorkelling during the surface interval to collect floating trash but found it rather difficult to collect so we are in the process of inventing some gadgets/gizmos to help us with this task!
Land Based Projects
Given the amount of saplings we planted over the summer, our nursery needed to be replenished. So we took our volunteers along the Krabi river by longtail boat to the healthy mangrove forest where they collected 230 Rhyzophora seeds, which were planted in our nursery beds.
Whilst on this field trip, the volunteers were blown away by the difference between the healthy forests and those which we normally work on which have been drained and destroyed due to commercial development and shrimp farms.
In fact, whilst there they saw macaque monkeys, a king fisher and a kite. Also, the area is home to the oldest human remains found in South East Asia and we took our volunteers to a cave which has ancient cave paintings on the walls. An amazing experience.
Beach Clean Ups
As part of our community outreach program, we visited the tiny island of Klong Prasong on 29th August and worked together with the only school on the island, consisting of 54 children and 5 teachers to clean their beaches. It was such a big event for this small community that even 15 staff from the Krabi Government Office came over to help us.
We left Krabi town by longtail boat and as we pulled up to the island, all the children were lined up on the beach to greet us - a totally magical experience that kept us all speechless (yes including me!)
Punch gave an educational presentation and then we all cleaned a small stretch of beach called Laem Song and within an hour we had collected 292.5kg of trash. That is a huge amount for such a small area!
We had our photo taken with a large banner they had made especially, which said 'thank you' to Projects Abroad, the volunteers for all the hard work we do around the Krabi Province. We all felt very honoured.
The monthly visit to assist at the Fisheries Department is always interesting. This time, the volunteers got to remove thick layers of sea weed and algae that had grown in the breeding tanks. It was a tough job (and pretty smelly too!) but the volunteers were rewarded with being given the opportunity to hand feed some of the fish, including a couple of giant groupers and a moray eel!
As a celebration to the hugely successful beach clean at Klong Praksong, the staff and volunteers went out for a traditional Thai BBQ, which involves a domed trough being placed over hot coals, water is placed in the trough and you cook your own meat on the dome, allowing the juice to drip into the water making a tasty soup. Being a vegetarian didn't stop me, I was given my own individual terracotta BBQ where I cooked a variety of fresh local vegetables...yummy!
We had fun when the 'Amazing Fair' came to our village. The volunteers went along with our Social Manager, Vishal, who introduced them to the finer cuisine in Thailand - DEEP FRIED BUGS! And yes, our volunteers ate them eeekkk!
So as we head towards the end of rainy season, we are all excited about our new partnerships and the work we are doing. We are sure that our data collection will grow to be one of the key monitoring tools for international research organisations, utilised by marine biologists and scientists worldwide, in order to develop and evaluate marine and coastal environment management strategies.
Our successful month and year so far is a reflection of the hard work of all the dedicated volunteers and of the quality of the data they collect.
I would like to thank all of you - let's keep up the good work!
Conservation Director, Thailand