Thailand’s turtle hatchlings finally have the beach to themselves

When Kosum Kao-Uthai’s family noticed mysterious imprints in the sand outside the hotel resort they own in Koh Samui, she knew exactly which animal had paid a visit. She remembered spotting the same marks, left by a nesting sea turtle, when, as a teenager, she helped her father farm coconuts on the island.

Kosum hadn’t seen another for five decades. Yet, this year, as the coronavirus pandemic emptied Thailand of tourists, nests belonging to endangered hawksbill and green turtles cropped up across the island. Since February, 838 baby turtles have scuttled their way across the island’s sandy beaches and into the sea, with two nests yet to hatch.

The surge in nests – 19 so far – has delighted conservationists who have been fighting for years to reduce the threats posed by humans. “It is really exciting and we hope that people in Samui will help us protect the turtles in the future – we have a chance,” says Dr Thon Thamrongnawasawat, deputy dean at the faculty of fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok.

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Rebecca Ratcliffe