16 March 2020 - Source: Myanmar Times - The Forest Department wants to upgrade an island in Ayeyarwady Region that is a nesting site for sea turtles from its current status as a protected area to a Ramsar Site.

A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established by UNESCO in 1971 and enforced in 1975.

Thamihla Kyun wildlife sanctuary, or Diamond Island, will be nominated as an international wetland, or Ramsar Site, a department official said.

Sea turtles return to the island every year to lay their eggs on the beach and then return to the sea with their babies.

"It is an important site for turtles. We are trying to complete the data so it will meet the criteria as a Ramsar Site," said U Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, deputy director of the department.

Sea turtles are threatened because fishermen gather their eggs for food and due to habitat losses arising from the effects of climate change.

Rising sand temperatures and the proliferation of plastic waste on the beaches also puts the turtles at risk of extinction.

Thamihla Kyun wildlife sanctuary aims to conserve the turtles. The department released 3015 baby turtles to the sea from 5315 eggs hatched in 2017-2018.

In Myanmar, there are five species of sea turtles – the leatherback, loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and olive ridley.

''This year, we will also nominate Nanthar island in Rakhine State as a Ramsar Site," U Kyaw Kyaw Lwin said.

The government and non-governmental organisations have joined hands to protect the island. Two personnel are deployed there to collect garbage quarterly and to educate people in nearby villages about the importance of conservation, according to the department.

Myanmar has five Ramsar sites – Moeyungyi, Indawgyi Lake, Inle Lake, Meemahla Kyun island and the Gulf of Mottama.