The Dugong Shepherds 7th Aerial Survey – 2014

Flying Scouts Dugong Survey- 2014

Dugong Survey – Flying Ed, Tom, Mike, Year 6 of marine conservation

Ed and Tom were joined by Nok Flying Club member Mike Willson, who generously donated his time to act as an additional pilot for this years mission.

We were also joined by Dr Nine, secretary of Chiang Mai Flying Club and Nok Flying Club President K. Koi. Both of them have worked behind the scenes since the beginning of the survey flights, obtaining all the necessary permits to allow us to conduct these flights, but neither have ever been to the survey site, so this year it was decided to redress this lapse, and also dedicate this years mission to the original instigator of the surveys, Tony Smallwood, who sadly passed away last year.

2014 Survey Team.

Following several weeks of preparation, on the 11th January, Ed and Mike arrived at Krabi Airport (VTSG). This year, the flying Scouts volunteered to survey the Krabi area as well as Trang to help gain more coverage of the migration and behavior of the Dugong population along the Southern Coast.

The DCA staff at Krabi Airport are always happy to see The Flying Scouts, and provide excellent support, especially K. Noodle and K.Night from AeroThai in the tower, who coordinated our unusual activity smoothly between the daily flights arriving at Krabi Airport.

e were met at Krabi Airport by Dr Kongkiat, K Oui, K. Sumen, K.Chin and K. Kung. This close nit team of dedicated marine biologists from Phuket Marine Biology Centre (PMBC) conduct many survey’s around Thailand’s Southern coast, including the Dugong Survey Flights.

Every year we try to improve the data collection techniques, and this year the aircraft was bristling with cameras

Ed and Mike set off on a pre-survey flight to check out the aircraft, and help Mike familiarise himself with the survey area.
It is always breathtaking to fly around the beautiful scenery that makes up Phanga Bay, and this year was no exception.

The weather at Krabi was very windy. This led to poor surface conditions and extremely challenging crosswind landings.

The largest group spotted in Krabi was around 15 animals.

Despite our best efforts, the poor weather did not enable us to gain accurate data from Krabi.

After Krabi, the Flying Scouts waited around one week for the next tides to be favorable in Trang, before relocating there.

Arriving in Trang is always special for the Flying Scouts. It is where the largest population of Dugongs is located, and where the people of Trang’s love for these animals is evident everywhere.

From the airport staff, to the controllers, to the local people we met, everyone of them thanked us for coming to help.

Ed’s Jetprop was also called into service, transporting volunteers from Chiang Mai.

The survey team have become adept at maintaining the aircraft and supporting the pilots. Having two pilots available meant that longer missions could be flown and survey areas extended.

Mother and calf pairs were seen in larger numbers than previous years, as well as mating activity, raising tentative hopes that the population maybe stabalising for the first time since the surveys began.

PMBC and the Flying Scouts were also invited to take part in a Discovery programme, about individuals who dedicate themselves to animal conservation.

Hopefully this will be aired later this year – 2014, raising awareness and further helping these wonderful animals. No mission would be complete without the aircraft AKA “Miss Dippy” getting a flat tyre. This year she did it in style, blocking Trang’s only runway, while good old team effort came into play to repair her!

As well as a very experienced pilot, Mike is an accomplished mechanic and soon got to grips with helping Ed repair the flat tyre!

Having never flown this type of mission before, Mike did an outstanding job of flying very accurate transect lines.

This year, we were fortunate to be in Trang during Chinese New Year, and the town center was vibrant with celebrations.

During the survey missions, Miss Dippy was based at Phuket Airpark, Where owner Suchard and Pat from AeroPro generously allowed us to stay, as they have done so, for the past six years. It is this support from the flying community that makes these missions possible. Thank you!!

Photography (c) PMBC & Tom Potisit

Donations for the Gibbon Project – Any Amount!

Kasikorn Bank, Thanon Suthep Branch, Chiang Mai
Account Name: The Wild Animal Rescue Foundation of Thailand For GRPC
Account No. : 471-2-38244-4 . Swift Code. : K A S I T H B K

WARF IS A FULLY LICENSED CHARITY UNDER THAI LAW – LICENSE NO. GT 20.Qualified Charitable Organization in Thailand for TAX DEDUCTION license No. 741

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