Efforts to rescue two rare dolphins in tsunami-devastated southern Thailand have hit a snag as fishermen and environmentalists argued over how best to save the mammals swept inland by the giant waves.
The dolphins – a female adult and her calf – were dumped in a 300 metre by 200 metre lake left by the wall of water that struck Thailand’s Andaman Sea coastline on December 26.
Rescue teams, including a group of Greek divers, failed to corner the dolphins in a part of the lake where they had hoped to catch them on Monday.
When they came back early Tuesday, a group of local fishermen led by a district official showed up on the other side of the lake with a huge net.
“They want to take over and catch the dolphins themselves and we’re pretty leery about it,” said Jim Styres of the Myanmar Dolphin Project, a conservation group based in Thailand.
“They want to catch them like fish, but these are mammals and if they get tangled up in the net they will drown,” he told Reuters. “But there’s no negotiating with them at this point.”
The Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins were probably swept ashore in the first or second waves, environmentalists say, and were stuck behind a 4-5-metre embankment about 1,400 metres (1,500 yards) from the sea.
“They seem to be okay, but they are probably suffering from dehydration,” Styres said, adding that dolphins get their fluids from feeding on live fish.
Rescuers dropped fish into the murky water on Monday to try to keep the dolphins alive. But Styres said they were probably too stressed to feed despite going for days without food.
The Indo-Pacific Humpback has a long, slender beak and gets its name from the fatty hump under its dorsal fin. Adults grow to 2.0-2.8 metres and weigh 150-200 kg (330-440 lb), according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Scientists view the dolphins as broadly threatened by habitat loss, pollution and hunting.
“They are very rare and that is a second reason to get them out and back into the sea,” said Edwin Wiek of Wildlife Rescue Unit of Thailand.