Tsunami Traps Rare Dolphins in Lagoon
By MIRANDA LEITSINGER, Associated Press Writer
KHAO LAK, Thailand - Men recovering the bodies of tsunami victims in Thailand were working Monday to keep two special survivors alive: a humpback dolphin and her calf swept into a small lagoon by powerful waves.
The animals, believed to be an Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and her roughly 3-year-old offspring, were spotted Monday by a man searching for his wife more than a mile from the coast. The larger dolphin, about 7 feet long, appeared to have a back injury.
"I reckon ... they came in with the initial wave, and when the water retreated, they couldn't get back again," said Edwin Wiek, a Dutchman who is director of the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Center. He said the two might survive only a few days without live fish to feed on.
"We need to get them out," he said.
With the search for survivors on Thailand's devastated southwestern coast basically turning into recovery of bodies, the discovery of the dolphins energized workers. "That's why we hope we get them out. That would be the only survivor story," Wiek said. "We need one."
About two dozen Greek divers tried to corner the dolphins Monday in what used to be a small valley before the tsunami swept in and left a lagoon about 16 feet deep. The goal was to get the mammals into black and green nets so they could be put into carriers and hauled to the sea. But after a failed attempt, a marine biologist told them the nets were too small. A radio broadcast went out asking fishermen to bring larger nets to the area.
While the rescue attempt went on, volunteers spotted the bodies of several people in the nearby vegetation, and one body in the lake.
The divers quit Monday because of darkness, but planned to try again early Tuesday using a larger net. They also were seeking the help of a dolphin expert.
Wiek said there are about 500-600 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in the seas around Thailand, and that they migrate between the Indian and Pacific oceans.