Experts hail 'golden year' for wildlife

Experts hail 'golden year' for wildlife

Marine parks have 'chance to recover'

A group of dusky leaf monkeys rests at Koh Ang Thong National Park in Surat Thani. The rare primates have been spotted more frequently as the park has been closed since early this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. photo by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation
A group of dusky leaf monkeys rests at Koh Ang Thong National Park in Surat Thani. The rare primates have been spotted more frequently as the park has been closed since early this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. photo by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation

The easing of coral bleaching and absence of tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic is spurring hopes of restoring years of damage to marine ecosystems, according to Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a well-known marine scientist.

In a Facebook post made on Monday, Mr Thon said this could be a "golden year" in the country's efforts to save the undersea environment, which many experts agree has been damaged by excess tourism.

Surveys found that during recent years, the corals along the country's extensive coastline have shown signs of severe bleaching.

However, this year the problem has substantially improved with only the corals in some areas displaying pale colours, which is a curable early stage of bleaching.

"Generally, almost all the corals are looking good with no signs of bleaching," he said.

Mr Thon, who is also deputy head of the Faculty of Fisheries, Kasetsart University, said the corals which have suffered minimal bleaching are found sparsely in spots around the islands in Trang, according to Mr Thon.

The marine scientist said in some years, the seawater temperature rose to 30.5 degrees Celsius off the Andaman coast and remained at that level for quite some time.

However, this year, the temperature has not gone up as much partly because the rain has arrived early.

Even though the seawater temperature on the Gulf of Thailand coast is hotter than that on the Andaman side, the situation does not pose a concern so far, Mr Thon said.

The cloudy skies have helped lower the temperature of the seawater and are conducive to the corals' health, he said.

Mr Thon said he believed the absence of tourists from marine parks and reduced level of bleaching will contribute in a very significant way to the restoration of the country's marine resources.

"Mother Nature has given us this precious opportunity to revive the sea. If we don't seize it, we don't know when we'll get another chance," he said.

Meanwhile, Jampen Pompakdee, chief of the Koh Hong marine park in Krabi, said more rare marine animals have been sighted around the islands in recent weeks as the waters have been left undisturbed by people.

Also in Krabi, officials at the marine parks said they recently spotted dozens of Blacktip reef sharks swimming close to the beach around Koh Hong. It was the second time they have seen the sharks in two weeks.

The officials said the sharks were preying on small fish.

Mr Jampen said the marine parks have been closed as part of a state policy to contain the transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has announced the parks will remain closed indefinitely.

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