By Khanitta Sitong
The collaboration between the Koh Libong wildlife sanctuary, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, local communities and the private sector, is pushing for the island’s 200-rai (32-hectare)Thung Chin Bay area to be turned into an “Asean Sea World” eco-tourism attraction, comprising facilities such as a learning centre/museum, a hospital for rare marine life, a marine-life nursery, a sea-grass demonstration zone and a nature trail, sanctuary chief Chaipreuk Weerawong said.
He said the highly publicised April 29 rescue in Krabi of eight-month-old dugong Mariam and her tragic death on August 17 from the consumption of plastic has been a wake-up call for the public to be aware of the risks faced by some 250 dugongs in Thai waters and the dangers posed to marine life by garbage. The incident has also motivated the government to add dugong conservation to the national agenda, he added.
Koh Libong, Trang’s largest island with impressive biodiversity, its population of 180 dugongs and 18,000-rai of sea grass with communities leading traditional ways, is a perfect candidate to become a model for environment management, where inspiring stories can be passed through the modern learning centre and other facilities. This will also boost the income of communities in Trang as well as five other provinces on the Andaman coast, as well as offer it an opportunity to create ties with other cities that have dugong populations such as Moreton Island in Australia and US state Florida’s Orlando and Sarasota, he said.
The more than 400,000-rai area covering Koh Libong wildlife sanctuary and adjacent Hat Chao Mai National Park, also in Trang, has been declared as one of the 14 Ramsar sites in Thailand and will soon be proposed as an Asean heritage source due to its impressive biodiversity, he said.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.
Tambon Koh Libong’s kamnan Sitthiporn Jilao said he supports this proposal, adding it will help boost the area’s economy, tourism, employment and quality of life as well as strengthen the conservation efforts for marine life.