Calum Deuchar - Conservation & Environment, Diving & Marine Conservation in Thailand
Back to UK - thoughts on Thailand
When I asked the young boy where his sweetie wrapper went after he finished with it I was really surprised when he responded with ‘it just disappears’.
I returned from my volunteering experience in Thailand with mixed emotions. The people I met had hearts of gold and smiles that made you forget its monsoon season. They just don’t realise the damage they’re doing to their precious environment and how a small action affects the natural environment in a big way. Throwing bottles off sides of boats, fishing lines cut and thrown onto coral and cigarettes butts left on the beaches.
4 weeks at the Conservation placement in Thailand
During the 4 weeks in Thailand, the team collected 2 tonnes of waste from the beach with the help of community projects including the military and local children in schools. About half the waste could have been recycled. We collected reusable materials in green bags and recycled them in local recycling points. At one beach we collected 800kg of tyres that would have remained on the beach if not collected and would slowly degraded into small pieces that fish and other animals would think is food.
The most heart touching moment is when the team visited the turtle rehabilitation centre in Phuket. The turtles get entangled in the fishing lines of trawling boats or shells ripped open by propeller blades. I spent a morning in the tank of small turtles cleaning their shells of algae. Some of the larger turtles are being trained to swim with one front flipper. It’s heart breaking to see a turtle swimming in circles. Most of these boats would have been tourist boats.
The memories from the dives will never leave me. When you dive in it is like the world is upside down. The silence is the first thing I noticed. Then I got a glimpse of something shiny. A beer can. My heart sank; it’s a world that some people haven’t seen before but they are already destroying it. I remember one dive when we collected several bottles close by to one another. It was clear that someone has been drinking on a boat and simply throwing the empty bottles over the side. It’s still sickens me today that they feel that it acceptable to do such a thing! This sense of frustration was eased by the breath-taking sights of coral formations and spectacular colours of the marine life.
If we weren’t diving, we were trekking through the jungles around Krabi province. Due to the increased need for palm oil, which is in almost every consumable in the western world, natural habitats and organisms are being destroyed so the land can be used for plantations for the oil. APE, a local environmental organisation which we work with, ‘encourages a wider range of native species to be grown on current monoculture plantations. They restore and connect forest with tree planting and awareness raising activities’. So we spent a lot of time planting trees to create corridor forests to reconnect the separated forests so maybe one day the near extinct life may have a chance to reproduce.
My free time
My days off were spent on either a beautiful beach or in a market town talking to the locals about their life and how much they loved their country. Or in one of the fantastic local bars. We travelled around the province to see shopping malls, fantastic rock formations, religious temples (some up 1000 steps), night markets and pools of natural water as hot as 30oC.
My team couldn’t have been better. There were all from different walks of life from across the globe. The language barrier was easily broken by card games or chilling out by the beach so culture walls quickly came down. We all came for different parts of the world but we all had the same idea though, to be environmental superheroes!
My time in Thailand make me realise it’s now time to change. I’ve changed as a person but now it’s time to change our own lives. I am not saying that we all drive around small electric cars but it isn’t difficult to put rubbish in a bin and a glass bottle to a recycling centre. Its takes 5 to 6 cigarettes butts to kill a turtle. Bin them safely. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.