Published January 03, 2005
KHAO LAK, Thailand – Desperately seeking a tale of survival in the midst of so much death, rescue workers are trying to save two dolphins trapped in a small lagoon created when tsunami waves swept them ashore.
The animals, believed to be a female Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (search) and her roughly 3-year-old offspring, were spotted Monday by a local man searching for his missing wife more than a kilometer (about a mile) from the coast. The larger one, about two meters (seven feet) long, appeared to have been injured on her back.
"I reckon ... they came in with the initial wave, and when the water retreated, they couldn't get back again, probably because it's pretty deep in here," said Edwin Wiek, a Dutchman who is director of the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Center (search).
With no live fish to feed on, "They might survive for a few days but not longer. We need to get them out."
With the search for survivors on Thailand's devastated southwestern coast basically turning into recovery of bodies, the discovery of the two dolphins energized workers.
"That's why we hope we get them out. That would be the only survivor story. We need one," Wiek said.
Amid constant shouts, teams of about two dozen Greek divers tried to corner the dolphins Monday afternoon in what used to be a small valley before the tsunami waters swept in and left a lagoon about 5 meters (16 feet) deep. The goal was to get them into large black and green nets so they could be put into carriers and hauled to the sea.
But after one attempt failed, a marine biologist told them that the nets were too small. A radio broadcast went out asking fishermen to bring in larger nets to the isolated area, not far from the posh Sofitel resort that was virtually flattened by the tsunami.
While the rescue attempt went on, about two dozen onlookers watched and volunteers spotted several human bodies in the brown vegetation, including one in the lake.
The divers finally had to give up due to darkness, but planned to try again early Tuesday using a larger net that would be weighted down to create walls to keep the dolphins from slipping away again. They also were seeking the help of a dolphin expert.
Thai Maj. Wipol Inthong said it was possible that an army aircraft might be asked to haul the dolphins to sea if they can't be transported by truck.
Wiek said there are about 500-600 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in the seas around Thailand (search), and that they migrate between the Indian and Pacific oceans.
The discovery of the dolphins occurred as Wiek and other members of his group have been tending to animals affected by the tsunami. While few appeared to have died, some are roaming free. He said volunteers have distributed about 800 kilograms (1,800 pounds) of dog food.