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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dim dolphin set free in Mekong

Dim dolphin set free in Mekong


Conservationists prepare to lift the stranded dolphin from its sling.

AMekong dolphin that has been stuck for months in a tributary near Phnom Penh

after flood waters receded was set free March 13 with the help of NGO staff, government

officials, and local fishermen. Its companion was rescued from a nearby rice field

three months earlier.

"For some reason these two were a bit dim and didn't move back quickly enough,"

said Colin Poole, country program coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society

(WCS). "There's always a risk in moving animals, but it got to the point where

it was thin, so we didn't feel we could leave it much longer."

Department of Fisheries employee Phay Somany helps WCS as a project officer specializing

in water mammals. He said the team took great measures to ensure the safety of the

dolphin, catching it early in the day to protect it from the sun.

"It was not difficult to catch it, because we know the technique and the dolphin

was 100 percent good," he said.

To catch the dolphin, local fishermen beat the water with bamboo poles, and the noise

drove it into a shallow area. A bamboo enclosure corralled the dolphin, which was

then caught in a net and placed on a special sling. From there, the sling was carried

to the Mekong River.

"The first one [in December] was totally still and calm. It made a lot of dolphin

whistling noises," said Poole. "The second one thrashed around a bit."

But when released into the river, said Somany, both dolphins did much the same: "They

swam away around eight to ten meters, then they came to the surface. Then they dove

down and disappeared."

There are thought to be only 150 to 200 dolphins living in the Mekong, between the

Laos-Cambodian border and Kratie in the north-east. During the dry season they are

restricted to approximately a dozen deep water areas. Fishermen consider it bad karma

to catch or harm them.



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