For many years Eco Koh Tao in conjunction with Crystal Dive have actively supported the conservation and preservation of endangered species. To this end we have teamed up with local community group Marine Conservation Koh Tao to maintain sighting databases for both sea turtles and whalesharks since 2009.
More recently the database which had fallen by the wayside a little has been taken over by some willing individuals to create the targeted website, Koh Tao Turtles to take over the role and do some analysis on the data collected.
The Koh Tao Turtle Project is using citizen science to track and help identify turtles found around Koh Tao. Using markings on the side of the face to individually identify turtles this information can help find key areas for both Green & Hawksbill turtles. Once areas are known these can be set aside as sanctuaries or closed for certain periods to protect these critical and endangered species.
Sea turtles are constantly in danger from natural sources as eggs are targets or dogs, racoons, and ants while still in the nest. As juveniles emerging on beaches worldwide they make bite size snacks for birds, crabs and other marine life. Humans provide pressures of their own through fishing methods where turtles get caught on long lines and in nets.
Discarded nets can prove deadly for turtles and plastic debris is often mistakenly consumed by turtles causing them to choke and die. Without protection this iconic, endangered species may face a bleak future.
Looking back though the Eco Koh Tao Database we found a treasure trove of past data that would thought could prove valuable to the current pool of information. With the help of Eco Intern Jen Matheson, we uploaded all of our past data records that had accompanying photos.
While the quality of the photos was often less than ideal the coordinators were able to find some useful data and sent us this feedback….
“Thank you for all the pictures. We just analyzed them and found out some very interesting things. In total, we was able to identify 21 sightings clearly (I have to have a closer look at the rest, later). 4 individuals are already known and at least 3 individuals are completely new to our database. Most of the pictures taken in White Rock were taken of the same individual (we called him ‘Crush’ from ‘Finding Nemo’ in our database), but we didn’t know that he was quite resident in White Rock. So these are great results, thanks a lot!“
It is a fantastic result and shows the value of a community coming together to collect information to protect iconic species. If you see a turtles during your time on Koh Tao you can send any pictures to us or directly to the Koh Tao Turtles database.
Author: Nathan Cook (PADI Master Instructor / Reef Check Instructor Trainer)