Dolphin calf being nursed back to health after almost drowning in Thailand | Thailand

A dolphin calf found drowning in a tidal pool on Thailand’s shore is being cared for by dozens of veterinarians and volunteers.

The Irrawaddy dolphin was found by fishers who alerted marine conservationists and provided emergency care until it could be transported to Thailand’s marine and coastal resources research and development centre for veterinary attention.

The baby was nicknamed Paradon, roughly translated as “brotherly burden”, because those involved knew from day one that saving his life would be no easy task.

Irrawaddy dolphins, considered a vulnerable species by International Union for Conservation of Nature, are found in the shallow coastal waters of south and south-east Asia and in three rivers in Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia. Their survival is threatened by habitat loss, pollution and illegal fishing.

Officials from the marine research centre believe about 400 Irrawaddy dolphins remain along the country’s eastern coast, bordering Cambodia.

Since Paradon was found by the fishers on 22 July, dozens of veterinarians and volunteers have helped care for him at the centre in Rayong on the Gulf of Thailand.

“We said among ourselves that the chance of him surviving was quite low, judging from his condition,” Thanaphan Chomchuen, a veterinarian at the centre, said. “Normally, dolphins found stranded on the shore are usually in such a terrible condition. The chances that these dolphins would survive are normally very, very slim. But we gave him our best try on that day.”

Workers placed him in a seawater pool, treated a lung infection, and enlisted volunteers to watch him round the clock. They have to hold him up in his tank to prevent him from drowning and feed him milk, initially done by tube, and later by bottle when he had recovered a bit of strength.

A staff veterinarian and one or two volunteers stay for each eight-hour shift, and other workers during the day handle the water pump and filter and making milk for the calf.

After a month, Paradon’s condition is improving. The calf believed to be between four and six months old can swim now and has no signs of infection. But the dolphin, which was 138cm long (4.5 feet) and around 27kg (59lbs) when it was found is still weak and does not take enough milk despite the team’s efforts to feed him every 20 minutes.

Thippunyar Thipjuntar, a 32-year-old financial adviser, one of the many volunteers who come for a babysitting shift with Paradon, said she could not help but grow attached to him and be concerned about his development.

“He does not eat enough but rather just wants to play. I am worried that he does not receive enough nutrition,” she said as she fed the sleepy Paradon, cradled in her arm.

“When you invest your time, physical effort, mental attention, and money to come here to be a volunteer, of course you wish that he would grow strong and survive.”

Sumana Kajonwattanakul, the director of the marine centre, said Paradon would need long-term care, perhaps as much as a year, until he is weaned from milk and is able to hunt for his own food.

“If we just release him when he gets better, the problem is that he won’t be able to have milk. We will have to take care of him until he has his teeth, then we must train him to eat fish, and be part of a pod. This will take quite some time,” Sumana said.

Paradon’s caregivers believe the extended tender loving care is worth it.

“If we can save one dolphin, this will help our knowledge, as there have not been many successful cases in treating this type of animal,” said veterinarian Thanaphan. “If we can save him and he survives, we will have learned so much from this.”

“Secondly, I think by saving him, giving him a chance to live, we also raise awareness about the conservation of this species of animal, which are rare, with not many left.”

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