IT MAY BE too late to save leatherback turtles from extinction in Thailand’s seas, as a legal deadlock prevents a conservation status upgrade to protect this critically endangered turtle species and three other rare marine animals.
Wildlife conservationists warned yesterday at a public seminar by the Sarakadee Magazine and Seub Nakhasathien Foundation that the slow pace of stepping up the conservation of the leatherback turtle, whale shark, Bryde's whale and Omura's whale to preserved status would eventually cause the inevitable extinction of leatherback turtles in Thailand.
The director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, said of the four endangered species, the fate of the leatherback turtles was now of most concern, as there had been no reports of finding new nests of the rare sea turtle species in Thailand since 2013 and its extinction in the wild was predicted to occur within the next few years.
Kongkiat said that the leatherback turtle was a protected wildlife species under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, which protected it from poaching and being in private possession, unless legally registered with the appropriate permission from the responsible agencies.
However, he said protected status was not enough to raise public awareness about preserving this critically endangered species of sea turtle and to prevent them becoming extinct from Thailand.
“Despite there not being much difference in conservation measures between protected wildlife and preserved wildlife, the public perception between these two categories is totally different, as people tend to give more concern to animals in the preserved wildlife list, because that is the status for nearly extinct animals,” he said.
He called for the conservation status of this turtle species to be stepped up urgently, bearing in mind its current precarious status in the wild, the fact there had been no new leatherback turtles’ nest found for more than four years and the increasing threat to their survival from dangers such as marine plastic waste.
“The categorising of Thailand’s wildlife conservation status of protected animals and preserved animals complies with the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List, as species listed as vulnerable [VU] are eligible to be listed as protected animals, while the animals with the IUCN status of endangered [EN] or higher can be included in preserved wildlife list,” Kongkiat added.
“The leatherback turtle is now listed as critically endangered by the IUCN and in Thailand its population is now less than one per cent of what it was six decades ago, while its nesting report ratio has also dropped from three nests per year 20 years ago to only 1.5 nests per year this decade.”
Earlier this month the nomination of four endangered marine animals to be included in the preserved wildlife list was turned down after the Council of State highlighted a legal deadlock in the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act.
This might result in rights violations of the private owners of leatherback turtle carcasses, if these four rare marine animals are successfully registered as preserved animals.
This is because every case of private possession of living preserved animals or their carcasses is illegal, while according to Fisheries Department, there were at least 12 registered private collectors of leatherback turtle carcasses.