Tang Len is a small, uninhabited island near the mouth of a river in southern Thailand. Thick rainforest covers most of the island; along the edges, there are sand and mud beaches, with patches of mangrove trees. Two small islets are within walking distance (about half a kilometer away) at low tide.
Dolphins and whale sharks swim offshore, and many species of birds, including hornbills, bee-eaters, swiftlets, egrets, and more, live in the forest. But what makes Tang Len unique is the thousands of red land crabs that crowd its beaches. These tiny (about 1.5-inch) wetland crabs are endemic to this part of Thailand, but aren’t usually found together in large numbers. The masses of crabs attract egrets and shorebirds (whimbrels, lapwings, and others) that feed on them. And several thousand tourists visit each year to see the abundant crabs and birds.
But illegal, destructive fishing practices are damaging the coastal ecosystems. There is also some illegal cutting of coastal trees. This harms tourism and the livelihood of women who catch krill to make into shrimp paste, a famous local product.
The eight subvillages of Ban Koh Kiem Village (total population 7,000) have agreed to protect the island. They will ask the Forestry Department to designate it as a community-managed forest, solidifying their legal right to protect it. In the meantime, they will conduct patrols of the island and hold a big beach clean-up day every three months. They will also host an environmental conservation camp three times a year. About 30 children and youth will attend each session.
The villages will use a Seacology grant to build a conservation education center, including:
- Exhibits about the island’s ecosystems.
- Space for some of the environmental conservation camp students to stay while attending camp.
- Space for the local women’s group to use to teach young villagers about food preservation and handicrafts.