By Chutima Sidasathian
PHUKET, Thailand — A huge rare leatherback turtle deposited a clutch of eggs in the sand at a beach north of Phuket early today, delighting those who were there to see it.
Mother Nature, it seems, has not given up on Greater Phuket yet.
The turtle chose the same stretch at Thai Muang, a town about 40 kilometres from Phuket, where a boatload of Rohingya boys and men beached about a fortnight ago to be taken into custody.
The turtle eggs will have a better chance at freedom.
The Director of the Khao Lumpee Thai Muang National Park, Witoon Deatpramonpon, said today: ''We are very pleased to see a leatherback again. They are very, very rare.''
Khun Witoon said that the female was 2.25 metres long and 1.10 metres wide, weighed 300 kilos and was probably more than 50 years old. Leatherbacks are the largest of turtles.
While fishing nets and propellers have killed or maimed an increasing number of smaller green turtles, dolphins and dugongs, this old girl seems whole and healthy.
Rangers at the park along the beach keep watch through the night because this is the laying season for leatherbacks.
But there hasn't been one sighted on the beach since March, 2010. Rangers have already checked the eggs and believe 99 of them have been fertilised.
Although there's a turtle sanctuary right on the beach road nearby, caring for leatherbacks is a difficult proposition.
The young leatherback hatchlings, unlike young green turtles, go straight and cannot turn, so if kept in a pool they will bang into the side until they die.
The instinct, though, may mean they head out to sea as rapidly as possible and escape the nets and the propellers.
It will take 60 days from now for the rangers to know how many of the eggs will produce healthy young turtles. The rest will be up to them, and Mother Nature.