Tsunami Workers Try to Rescue Dolphins
KHAO LAK, Thailand (AP) — Singing, clapping and banging their boats with paddles, rescue workers tried unsuccessfully Tuesday to herd a humpback dolphin and her calf into nets so they could be rescued from a small lagoon where the Asian tsunami dumped them nine days earlier.
The dolphins, spotted Monday about a half mile from the beach by a man searching for his wife, have become a symbol of hope amid the death and destruction caused by the huge waves that crushed posh tourist resorts in Thailand.
“When we heard the good news about survivors, even though they’re dolphins, it’s great news,” said Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand’s minister of natural resources and environment. “I’m sure that everyone is happy to see at least some life after the tsunami.”
But the rescue effort failed after the older dolphin apparently sneaked through a tear in the net.
“It was almost a done deal, but unfortunately, with all the tears in the net … she got through,” said Jim Styers, head consultant for the Thailand-based Myanmar Dolphin Project.
“These dolphins are running around fish nets their whole lives,” said Styers, of Seattle, Wash. “If you leave them any opportunity, they’ll take it.”
The intense desire to work on a rescue attempt instead of the grim search for bodies led to tension between divers from the Athens fire department and local fishermen, who told the divers to leave.
The fishermen tried a traditional technique, even though Styers warned it could harm the mammals.
Men in boats made a cacophony in a bid to corner and then net the animals, believed to be an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and her calf. But the dolphins slipped from the cordon in the afternoon, and the effort was called off for the day.
“We do our best, we try again,” Suwit said. “The ultimate goal is to save the dolphins any which way we can.”
The dolphins were expected to be OK for up to a few more days in the murky, stagnating water, but there were concerns, including a lack of live fish to eat.
The larger dolphin, about seven feet long, also appeared to have a back injury.