Conservation Treat: Sea Turtle Release

'Pim' before release

'Pim' before release

August 12th is the Queen’s Birthday in Thailand, and also Mothers day holiday. Traditional one of the ways to celebrate this occasion in Thailand is to join with your neighbors and friends and do something positive for your community or environment. On Koh Tao, the local community arranged a land clean-up in the pier area of Mae Haad. The clean-up was joined by the local school kids, the Save Koh Tao Group, the police, local government, and members of local dive schools (New Heaven and Koh Exist). The clean-up was a great success, and the rubbish truck was filled up to the limit twice with collected garbage.

As a bonus for the clean-up participants, the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program had decided to use the occasion to release the largest sea turtle in our Turtle head-starting program, a 12 month old Green turtle named ‘Pim.’ Since most of the local kids couldn’t join on the boat, and most of the other dive schools didn’t send volunteers, it ended up being a quite small and intimate event, for which nobody was complaining. It is always nicer to do the release in small groups as opposed to some of the larger events we have done in the past for the yearly festivals.

In April of 2011 we had nearly released ‘Pim’ along with about 30 other juvenile turtles which had been given to us by the Thai Navy as part of their protection and restocking program. But, one of the top veterinary doctors in Thailand happened to be here, and noticed that he was in very poor shape. Not only was he weak, undernourished, and sick; but also covered in infections. Instead of releasing him, he started a 4-week antibiotic course and was nursed back to health in our turtle head-starting ponds. Over the course of the 4 months with us his weight went from 380 grams, to 1,370 grams!

He was released into the sea for the first time in his life on August 12th, at about 4:30pm. We released him from the boat in water about 8 meters deep in Ao Leuk Bay, adjacent to Hin Ngam Reef. Most of the turtles we have released over the last 12 years have swam off leisurely after hanging around the boat for a minute, but not Pim. He shot off like a bullet and practically skipped across the water’s surface. It is obvious that he was very healthy and strong upon his release, and happy to be at home. (see the video of his release from our facebook page)

He will be missed from our program here, as we have all enjoyed watching him swim around, feed, and grow over the last few months. We know that he is big enough now to escape predation, and he is healthy enough to forage for food. It is now up to a bit of luck that he will escape the dangers of marine debris, pollution, and careless fishing practices to one day return to our island.

Thank you very much to all of the groups and individuals involved in this effort, and especially to our students for volunteering their evenings to care for and feed our juvenile turtles. In another few months we will have 9 Hawksbills to release as well.

Farewell ‘Pim’, all the best of luck and we hope to see you swimming around our reefs soon!