Thai islands named as vital wetlands

national July 10, 2013 00:00

By Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation

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Ko Kra in the Gulf and Ko RaKo Phra Thong to be listed by convention



Two small archipelago systems with coral reefs lying offshore and the last remaining refuge for the Lesser Adjutant bird in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phang Nga were listed recently as wetland sites of international significance.

The secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance – or Ramsar Convention – announced the news on its official website www.ramsar.org.

It said the 374 hectare Ko Kra Archipelago in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Ko Ra-Ko Phra Thong Archipelago, some 19,648 hectares in size, in Phang-nga were new wetlands of international importance for the Ramsar List.

According to the Convention’s secretariat, the announcement will take effect on August 12.

Thailand now has 13 wetlands of international importance, with a surface area of 392,822 hectares, since the convention came into force here on 13 September 1998.

The two new archipelagos will be listed as the 12th and 13th protected wetland areas under the Ramsar Convention respectively.

Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Ko Kra Archipelago consists of three remote and relatively undisturbed, small rocky islets in the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand, some 53km east of the mainland. About 66 hectares around the archipelago is covered with an extensive coral reef, with a total of 67 species of hard coral, the greatest diversity recorded in the Gulf.

The main island, Kra Yai (34ha), is an important nesting ground for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The critically endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) is also found there.

The islands’ bays and lagoons have long provided storm shelter for fishing boats during the monsoon. The reefs attract divers and snorkellers from around the world and help sustain commercial fisheries that mainly target Yellow Queenfish, red snapper and Cobia.

The site is monitored by the Royal Thai Navy and a national fisheries law prohibits fishing within 3km of the islands, but illegal turtle egg harvesting and fishing, including dynamite fishing and poisoning, threaten the site, according to Ramsar Convention’s secretariat.

Meanwhile, Ko Ra-Ko Phra Thong Archipelago in Phang-nga consists of two islands in the Andaman Sea. The area features a rare and complex habitat including grasslands, peat swamp forests, freshwater pools, evergreen forests, mangrove forests, extensive seagrass beds and coral reefs.

The site provides nesting and foraging habitat for four threatened turtle species, the Green, Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, and Leatherback turtles. Ko Phra Thong Island is the last remaining site in Thailand known to support a significant breeding population of the vulnerable Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus).

Important mammal species include the endangered Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica), the vulnerable sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), and the dugong. The 700 hectares of seagrass are also an important nursery ground for 268 species of coastal fish and several other marine species.

Collection of Lesser Adjutant nestlings for food, unsustainable tourism development, land reclamation and encroachment are the key threats, as well as overfishing and destructive fishing along the coast.

 

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