Tourists help to release 34 baby sharks on Thailand's biggest island

Guests staying at Anantara and Avani hotels in Phuket set the bamboo sharks free in the Andaman Sea, along with 54 green turtles

The annual release of marine life into the Andaman Sea is part of a shark-breeding programme led by the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. Photo: Unsplash / Norbert Braun
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Just when you thought you’d heard enough about baby sharks to last you a lifetime, along comes a worthy cause.

Hotel guests staying at Anantara and Avani hotels in Phuket recently took part in an annual wildlife release that aims to help conservation on Thailand's biggest island.

As part of the efforts, 34 baby bamboo sharks were released on the shorelines around Anantara Layan, Anantara Mai Khao and Avani+ Mai Khao.

Travellers at Anantara Layan and Mai Khao take part in efforts to release baby sharks. Photo: Anantara

The annual release is part of a shark-breeding programme that is led by the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. These bamboo sharks grow to a maximum of one metre in length and are entirely harmless to humans.

They are threatened because of poaching and were only released into the Andaman Sea after spending nine months in a marine nursery. Alongside the baby sharks, 54 young green turtles, ranging in age from 12 to 15 months, were also released.

Fifty-four young green turtles were also released on the shorelines of the Anantara hotels in Phuket. Photo: Anantara

The turtle release is part of the Thai hotel group's efforts to help rejuvenate Phuket's population of the reptiles.

The island and its surrounds are home to green turtles, leatherbacks, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles, all of which are listed as endangered.

From November to February, marine turtles return to the beaches they were born on to lay their eggs. Their numbers have been severely depleting over the past 20 years and the local Mai Khao and Layan villagers work hard to protect them.

Eggs are taken to the Phuket Marine Biology Centre hatchery where the baby turtles are protected from elements of nature and human exploitation. They stay here for a year before their release to give their bodies and flippers time to grow in a bid to improve their chances of survival in the wild.

To date, more than 7,000 turtles have been released by the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation, set up by Minor Hotels — the parent company of Anantara and Avani — to protect the marine creatures in and around the Sirinat National Marine Park.

Travellers can visit the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation year-round to learn more about conservation, with daily talks from resident marine biologists.

Updated: April 21, 2022, 11:11 AM