By The Nation
Dr Kongkiart Kittiwattanawong, director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, said officials had spotted baby turtles climbing up from the first nest, which had been monitored on the beach in Phang-Nga’s Takua Pa district at 6pm.
One of the officials, Wiroj Iadsongkram, said he was checking the nest at the time and found that the surface of the sand had started to dissolve and two newborns were climbing out.
Officials manning the nest took a first batch of 20 baby turtles into a sterilised bowl and waited until they gained sufficient strength before releasing them into the sea.
Kongkiart said the officials then waited for a while, but no more babies came up from under the sand.
Officials therefore burrowed into the sand and found 29 more babies that had hatched, but had not been able to climb up.
They then took the 29 tiny turtles to the same bowl to wait for a while for them to gain strength, and released a second batch of 20 of them into the sea.
Sadly, one of the remaining nine died, but the officials released later released the third batch of eight babies into the sea.
This meant that 48 newborn turtles from the nest had been successfully released into the sea, Kongkiart said.
The officials later checked the nest and found eight more dead babies and a further 27 eggs that had not hatched, he added.
The eggs were laid by the mother on December 17 and hatched 56 days later, resulting in a success rate of 60 per cent.
About 80 per cent of the surviving baby turtles were female, coming close to the natural ratio in which three-quarters of leatherback turtles are generally female, the director explained.
Kongkiart said officials had not keep the baby turtles for nurturing longer because studies worldwide showed that no one had been successful in nurturing newborn leatherbacks, and they therefore needed to be released into the sea as soon as possible to increase their chances of survival.
A second nest of eggs laid by another leatherback turtle on the same beach is expected to hatch within the next 10 days.