There’s something about a helpless baby animal that brings out parental instincts in most people.
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One month ago, attentive fishermen in Rayong, Thailand spotted a sick Irrawaddy dolphin calf struggling to stay alive in a tidal pool. Recognizing the rare and vulnerable species, the fishermen contacted marine conservationists, who told them what to do to help until they arrived.
Once he was transported to Thailand’s Marine and Coastal Resources Research and Development Center, experts determined the calf had a lung infection that had weakened him to the point of death. They knew he’d need around-the-clock care to give him any chance of survival, so they named him Paradon, which means “brotherly burden.”
There are only about 400 Irrawaddy dolphins remaining in this region. The breed lives in shallow coastal waters between Thailand and Cambodia, as well as in three rivers in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Indonesia.
From the moment he arrived at the marine center, scientists and volunteers were determined to help Paradon survive.
“We said among ourselves that the chance of him surviving was quite low, judging from his condition,” said veterinarian Thanaphan Chomchuen. “Normally, dolphins found stranded on the shore are usually in such a terrible condition. The chances that these dolphins would survive are normally very, very slim. But we gave him our best try on that day.”
Paradon was placed in a seawater pool, where volunteers tend to him 24/7. They treated the lung infection first, and now they are working on putting weight on him by feeding him milk every 20 minutes. Staff veterinarians and two volunteers stay by the calf’s side for eight hours at a time, and they plan to do so for the foreseeable future.
The care seems to be working! Paradon is now between 4 and 6 months old, and he can finally swim on his own. He’s still very weak, however, so Marine Center Director Sumana Kajonwattanakul thinks it could be months before he’s ready to be released.
“If we just release him when he gets better, the problem is that he won’t be able to have milk,” she explained. “We will have to take care of him until he has his teeth, then we must train him to eat fish, and be part of a pod. This will take quite some time.”
Treating this injured calf is bigger than just Paradon. His caregivers say they’re learning a lot about the species as a whole, and if they can successfully nurse him back to health, the knowledge they gain could help other marine species in the future.
“If we can save one dolphin, this will help our knowledge, as there have not been many successful cases in treating this type of animal,” said Thanaphan. “If we can save him and he survives, we will have learned so much from this.”
The center is also glad to raise awareness about this rare species of animal — and stories featuring Paradon’s adorably smiling face are doing just that! We think this baby is in great hands, don’t you?
Share this story to thank these volunteers for spending their time rehabilitating a helpless creature.
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