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Phuket tourists, jet-ski operator scramble to stave off dolphin beaching



PHUKET: A pair of dolphins came dangerously close to beaching themselves on Patong Beach, on Phuket’s west coast, yesterday morning, but were successfully herded back out to deeper water.

However, biologists from the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) still fear for their safety.

The dolphins were first spotted in shallow waters opposite the Patong Beach Resort at about 9am.

Initial attempts by tourists to help the cetaceans out to deeper water failed when both animals headed back toward shore further north about 15 minutes later.

“In the morning, I and other beach business operators in the area noticed the two dolphins swimming toward the shore. We assumed from the difference in their sizes that they were mother and calf,” said Suthipun Kongkaew, owner of a jet-ski rental operation on Patong Beach.

The larger of the two dolphins was about two meters long; the other about half that size.

A second attempt to herd the animals offshore with jet-skis was apparently successful, but Mr Suthipin still fears for their safety.

“Both of them seemed weak. Although they were successfully brought back to deeper water, we fear they may get confused and try to beach again,” he said, adding that there are many boats in the area where the dolphins were last seen.

PMBC veterinarian Patcharaporn Kaewmong shared Mr Suthipin’s concern.

“Judging from the description given by the beach business owner and other witnesses, they might have been Striped Dolphins, but we won’t be able to confirm that unless they beach again.

“I suspect they are mother and calf. One of them may be sick, because dolphins usually will beach only when they are ill,” she said.

Photos of the dolphins suggests they are in fact Striped Dolphins, which travel in pods numbering from 10 to 100 and reach a maximum age of about 58.

Although just as acrobatic as Bottlenose Dolphins, all efforts to raise them in captivity have failed because they refuse to be fed. Their diet comprises fish, squid, octopus, krill and other crustaceans.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong


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