06 January 2005

Dolphin mom rescued from Thai lake

Khao Lak, Thailand - Rescuers have saved a dolphin swept over a Thai beach by the tsunami that devastated shores around the Indian Ocean, but failed on Wednesday to find her calf in a filthy lake left behind by the giant wave.

After two days of bickering between Thai and foreign experts over how to save the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, the adult animal was finally plucked from the lake in a net and released into the sea more than 1km away.

"She swam away like a rocket. It was fantastic," said animal rescue expert Edwin Wiek. "I thought she was going to be a lot weaker."

However, rescuers failed to locate her calf which had been dumped in the same foetid lake by the wall of water that smashed over Thailand's Andaman Sea coastline on December 26.

Watchmen were told to monitor the tiny lake through the night in the hope of spotting the small calf.

"I'm afraid she's probably dead," said Wiek, a Dutch national who has worked in Thailand for more than a decade.

The rescue of the adult female, which had a distinctive pink and grey fin, represented a triumph for the Thai authorities who shunned advice from international experts and devised a scheme with local fishermen to catch the dolphin.

Using two nets, they cornered the 2m animal in one corner of the lake and manoeuvred it ashore and onto the back of a truck where Wiek treated a gash along its side.

Locals said many animals managed to flee the tsunami before it hurtled ashore and Wiek said he was amazed that so little wildlife appeared to have died.

"It proves that animals have a sixth sense," he said. "I think most of the dolphins also managed to get out of the way."

About 5 246 people died when the tsunami hit the Thai coastline, 8 457 were injured and 3 720 are missing.

Five corpses were scooped from the dolphins' lake on Tuesday and a team of Greek divers who inspected the site earlier this week said they believed a number of other bodies were still trapped in debris beneath the waters.


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