March 24, 2023

RAYONG, Thailand (AP) — The Irrawaddy dolphin calf was sick and too weak to swim when fishermen found it — drowning in a tide pool off the coast of Thailand.

The fishermen were quick to notify marine conservationists, who advised them how to provide emergency care until rescue teams transported the babies to the Thailand Marine and Coastal Resources Research and Development Center for veterinary treatment.

The baby was nicknamed Paraton, which roughly translates to “Brother’s Burden,” because those involved knew from day one that saving his life would be no easy feat.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and lives in shallow coastal waters in South and Southeast Asia and in three rivers in Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia. Their survival is threatened by habitat loss, pollution and illegal fishing.

Officials at the Marine Research Center believe there are still about 400 Irrawaddy dolphins on the country’s east coast, which borders Cambodia.

Since the fishermen discovered Paradon on July 22, dozens of veterinarians and volunteers have helped care for him at the center in Rayong, Gulf of Thailand.

“We said to each other that from his condition, his chances of surviving are very low,” Thanaphan Chomchuen, the center’s veterinarian, said Friday. “Normally, the dolphins that are found stranded on the shore are usually in such bad shape. The chances of these dolphins surviving are usually very, very slim. But we gave him the best possible try that day.”

Workers placed him in a seawater pool, treated the lung infection that had made him so debilitating, and recruited volunteers to watch him around the clock. They had to hold him in the tank to prevent him from drowning and feed him milk through a tube.

Every eight-hour shift, a veterinarian and one or two volunteers stay while other workers handle the pumps and filters during the day and make milk for the calves.

A month later, Paradon’s condition is improving. The calf, between four and six months old, is believed to be swimming now and has no signs of infection. But the dolphin, which was 138 cm (4.5 ft) long and weighed about 27 kg (59 lb) on July 22, was weak and did not eat enough despite the team’s efforts to feed it every 20 minutes or so. milk.

Financial advisor Thippunyar Thipjuntar, 32, was one of many volunteers who came to join Paradon’s shift.

Thippunya said that Parado’s round baby face and the curved corners of his mouth are like a smile, and he can’t help but feel attached to him and care about his development.

“He’s not eating enough, he’s just trying to play. I’m worried he’s not getting enough nutrition,” she told The Associated Press on Friday, cradling a drowsy Palaton while she cradled her arm. “When you put in your time, strength, spirit and money to volunteer here, of course you want him to get strong and survive.”

Sumana Kajonwattanakul, director of the Ocean Centre, said Paradon will need long-term care, possibly up to a year, until he is weaned and able to find food on his own.

“If we don’t let him go until he’s better, the problem is he can’t drink milk. We have to take care of him until he has teeth and then we have to train him to eat fish, to be part of the pod. It’s going to take quite a while, “Sumana said.

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

“If we could save a dolphin, it would help us understand the situation, as there are not many successful cases of treating this animal,” said veterinarian Thanaphan. “If we can save him and he survives, we’ll learn a lot from it.”

“Secondly, I think by saving him and giving him a chance to live, we have also raised awareness of the protection of this animal, which is rare and not many anymore.”

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