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Dolphin Rescued 10 Days After Tsunami

January 5, 2005

KHAO LAK, Thailand (AP) — An Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin that was dumped into a small lagoon by the Asian tsunami was returned to the Andaman Sea on Wednesday after three rescue attempts – a rare story of survival 10 days after the massive disaster.

But the fate of a second, smaller dolphin also spotted in the murky, stagnating water was unclear.

“She’s out!” Edwin Wiek, a Dutchman who is director of the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Center, said jubilantly after the older dolphin swam away. “I think she’s going to survive.”

The dolphins, spotted Monday about a half mile from the beach by a man searching for his missing wife, had become a symbol of hope amid the death and destruction after towering waves crushed posh tourist resorts in the surrounding Khao Lak area, uprooting trees throughout the area.

But rescue efforts Monday and Tuesday failed, first because the nets were too small, then because trees and other debris on the bottom of the lagoon apparently tore holes in the nets and allowed the pink-and-gray dolphin to slip out.

The smaller dolphin wasn’t seen during the rescue Wednesday, said Wiek, who planned to the lagoon Thursday.

Officials had planned to wait until Saturday to make another dolphin rescue attempt, but local fishermen and soldiers showed up Wednesday afternoon with a double net.

As about 150 people watched, soldiers lined the length of the nets, splashing to herd the dolphin into a corner of the lagoon. It jumped the first net and became trapped in between.

“She seemed to be pretty exhausted at the end, so she actually drove herself into the net,” Wiek said.

The soldiers put the dolphin on a stretcher and pulled it up the muddy bank and into a pickup truck, where it was laid on an air mattress and driven to the sea.

Wiek said the dolphin, which originally was spotted with a shallow wound on her back, suffered some small injuries from the net. It was given an injection of antibiotics, which also were smeared on the wounds.

The net caught the dolphin’s fins awkwardly, and the mammal, estimated at 13 to 15 years old, appeared to be crying, he added.

The rescuers carried the dolphin from the truck, walked out into the sea and released it.

“She went off like a rocket,” Wiek said.

Local fishermen also managed Tuesday to trap and free a dugong – a tropical sea mammal that lives along the shores of the Indian Ocean – that had been trapped in a lagoon near a navy base in Phang Nga province.

About 500 to 600 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins are believed to inhabit the seas around Thailand, migrating between the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Associated Press photographer Richard Vogel in Khao Lak contributed to this story.




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