A dolphin calf suffering from a lung infection was found drowning in a tidal pool on Thailand’s shore. Fishermen alerted marine conservationists, who provided emergency care until the baby was transported to Thailand’s marine and coastal resources research and development center for veterinary attention.
The calf, named Paradon, is an Irrawaddy dolphin, considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. These dolphins are found in shallow coastal waters of south and southeast Asia and three rivers in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Habitat loss, pollution, and illegal fishing are major threats to their survival.
The marine research center believes that about 400 Irrawaddy dolphins remain along the country’s eastern coast, bordering Cambodia. Dozens of veterinarians and volunteers have been caring for Paradon at the center in Rayong on the Gulf of Thailand since the fishermen found him on July 22.
They placed him in a seawater pool, treated his lung infection, and enlisted volunteers to watch him round the clock. The workers 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 some strength.
After a month, Paradon’s condition is improving. The calf, believed to be between four and six months old, can now swim and has no signs of infection. However, he is still weak and does not take enough milk despite the team’s efforts to feed him every 20 minutes.
The dolphin will 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.
Sumana Kajonwattanakul, the director of the marine center, said that if they release Paradon when he gets better, he won’t be able to have milk. They will have to take care of him until he has his teeth, train him to eat fish, and be part of a pod.
The caregivers believe the extended tender loving care is worth it because it helps raise awareness about the conservation of this rare species. Veterinarian Thanaphan said that if they can save one dolphin, it will help their knowledge because there have not been many successful cases in treating this type of animal.
The survival of the Irrawaddy dolphin is crucial because it plays a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance of the coastal and riverine ecosystems in which it lives. By raising awareness about the conservation of this species and providing extended care to Paradon, marine conservationists and volunteers hope to ensure that more dolphins can thrive in their natural habitat.