Endangered sea turtles lay more eggs on deserted beaches

One of the silver linings of the pandemic is a breather for the environment, as evidenced on the shores of southern Thailand where endangered sea turtles have laid the largest number of eggs in decades thanks to the absence of humans.

“This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans,” Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, Director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, told Reuters news agency.

According to Kongkiat, no nests of leatherback turtles were found on the beaches of Phuket and Phangnga provinces for the past five years. This year, researchers have found 11 nests since November, the highest number in 20 years.

Leatherbacks are the world’s largest turtles and are classified as endangered in Thailand. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has designated them as a vulnerable species globally.

“If we compare to the year before, we didn’t have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach,” Kongkiat said.

Further south in Trang province, marine park officials released drone footage of a large school of dugongs feeding seagrass in shallow waters just of empty beaches. It was the largest school of dugongs they had sighted in years.

As humans on most continents have been observing stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus pandemic, air pollution has markedly decreased and even disappeared from some cities. Deer have ventured onto the deserted streets of London suburbs, and wild boars have been roaming the roads in the Israeli city of Haifa.

But the effects of decreased human activity have not benefitted all animals. Without visitors, many zoos are struggling to survive and find the funds to feed the animals in their care.

Similarly, elephant camps and sanctuaries in Thailand have also been sounding the alarms, asking for help, and donations to feed the pachyderms in their charge.

Photo courtesy of http://www.phangnga.go.th/main/index.php/th/component/k2/item/209-edd