Citizens celebrate release of snails and crabs into Krabi River.
As I arrived at the edge of the river, the loudspeaker clicked with Thai words and the air smelled of fish and salt. A tent decorated with blue and pink streamers was set up on the pier and citizens in their various daily uniforms sat in the audience. Having heard about the festival a few days before, I, along with a few others in my volunteer group, decided to check it out. I squeezed my way into a seat in the back to listen to the processions. The MC’s for the event were two young Thai students, and they delivered their lines in English.
“And now speaking will be the president of Krabi Provincial Fisheries Office,” they announced.
Standing at the podium, he read his speech in Thai, so my group leader translated. He was explaining how populations of certain aquatic animals – notably the Horn Snails and Mangrove Crabs – had been depleted over the years, so they were hoping to repopulate the river. Since I have been in Thailand (about three and a half weeks now,) the Thai people’s commitment to preserving their wildlife has repeatedly caught my attention. In a land so rich with natural beauty, this does not come as a huge surprise.
At the commencement of the Krabi Fishery president’s speech, the MC’s announced that it was time to release the animals. Surrounding the tent were buckets, bins, cages, and bags filled with the snails and crabs. I grabbed a small red bucket filled with the snails, red and black blobs peaking out from grey, lumpy shells. At the pier’s edge, I dumped them into the brown-blue river with a small splash. Around me, others were doing the same. After a few moments, the leaders of the event began ushering guests onto longboats, which are 30 foot narrow wooden boats popular in Thailand. I stepped onto one and took a seat on a wooden plank between two Thai women in red, pink, yellow, and blue dotted shirts and blue pants to match. The boat driver revved up the engine and we drove a few minutes to the mangroves at the other side of the river. With their roots climbing and twisting above and below the water, the mangroves created a perfect habitat for these creatures. A net filled with crabs half the size of my palm was positioned at the front of the boat. The Thai women motioned me to grab a small bucket to scoop out some crabs and dump them out of the boat.
Having been swept up fairly spontaneously into the festivities, I was having trouble wrapping my head around what I was doing exactly. Picking up a few crabs and snails and dropping them into the river seemed like a strange, even silly reason to put on a festival. But at the same time, the enthusiastic faces of the Thai people and the structured sequencing of events – the festival was seamlessly organized – told me that these people took the celebration very seriously. Their devotion to aquatic life and strong connection with local fisheries, who organized the event, were palpable. I was able to physically observe the Krabi Fishery Office, Krabi Province Development office, and general citizens of Krabi come together on the repopulation mission. While my first instinct may have been to chuckle at the act, I instead earnestly grabbed up my crab-filled bucket and scattered them along the mangrove roots. I returned to my seat between the women with a surprising sense of pride, accomplishment and community.
Article written by Anna Carey.