A “turtle patrol” along the beach by officers from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) found tracks in the sand at Na Yak Beach in Moo 4, Tambon Lamkaen, Thai Muang District, soon after sunrise.
The site of the nest was about 11km north of the Khao Lampi – Hat Thai Mueang National Park main office, the officers reported.
The tracks – made by a turtle estimated to have a shell about 50cm wide and about 155cm long – led to a nest that contained only two leatherback turtle eggs. Both eggs were spoiled and would not have produced hatchlings, the officers noted.
The turtle patrol officers excavated the sand around the nest, but no other eggs were found at the site. Turtles usually lay clutches of anywhere from about 50 up to about 100 eggs in one laying.
This led the officers to suspect that the eggs had been stolen from the nest, despite recent efforts by wildlife officers to increase protection of turtles, including a push for form “turtle protection zones” outside national park areas in Phuket and Phang Nga. (See story here.)
The DMCR officers noted they would gather all the evidence from the site to hand over to Khao Lam Pi National Park - Hat Thai Mueang national park officers, who are to file a formal criminal complaint for the theft to Thai Muang Police Station “to search for offenders to prosecute”.
Well-known marine animal conservationist Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, today railed against the suspected theft, accusing the perpetrators of robbing young children of good bedtime stories about precious turtles.
“I don't blame the authorities, because we all know how hard they work. The beach is 10-20 kilometers long, and leatherback turtles can lay eggs anywhere at anytime,” Dr Thon said.
Dr Thon called for authorities to track down and prosecute the nest raiders.
“Leatherback turtles are protected animals. The people who did this must be caught and prosecuted,” he said, adding that stealing turtle eggs was illegal under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act 2019.
If found guilty, perpetrators were liable to three to 15 years’ imprisonment or a fine of B300,000 to B1.5 million, or both.
Dr Thon also reminded people that they could “make easy money” of B20,000 reward just by reporting finding the turtle eggs to national park officers.
“People who report finding a turtle nest receive the money quickly,” he said.
Two fishermen received B10,000 each after reporting finding a turtle nest just last month. (See story here.)