Second dugong calf washed ashore dies in Thailand

Jamil, a three-month-old male dugong, was found washed ashore in the southern province of Krabi.
Jamil, a three-month-old male dugong, was found washed ashore in the southern province of Krabi.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/DEPARTMENT OF MARINE AND COASTAL RESOURCES

BANGKOK - An orphaned dugong under the care of Thai veterinarians died on Thursday (Aug 22), less than a week after the loss of another calf which became a social media darling for its human-friendly antics.

Jamil, a three-month-old male dugong, was found washed ashore in the southern province of Krabi on July 1 with abrasions on his body, and had been kept under close watch in an enclosed pond at the Phuket Marine Biological Center.

Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) announced on its Facebook page that the mammal had been sent for surgery to Vachira Phuket Hospital on Thursday evening to remove seagrass that had clogged his stomach after his intestines stopped working.

That had caused a build-up of gas in his intestines and was putting pressure on his lungs, making breathing difficult.

But Jamil stopped breathing after he was returned to the nursery pond.

"The medical team tried to save him with CPR, but couldn't bring him back. Jamil died peacefully at 21.43 hours," the DMCR wrote in its Facebook post.

Just five days ago, another orphaned dugong about twice his age died in another nursery tank in Trang province. Mariam was found ashore, also in Krabi, in April, and became the darling of the nation after marine officials decided to broadcast online their efforts to nurture her in the protected waters off Koh Libong in Trang.

She formed a close bond with her human carers, who gave her milk and seagrass every day while monitoring her health closely. Pictures of her cuddling her carers were circulated widely on the Internet, transforming her to a lovable icon of marine conservation. Tens of thousands of people watched Live Facebook videos of her, sparking public interest that was later shared with Jamil when he was discovered.

Mariam, however, was attacked by an adult dugong and suffered from muscle trauma that eventually worsened to an infection. She was moved to a tank for her protection, but stopped eating and became dehydrated.

After Mariam died on Aug 17, a necropsy revealed that her intestines had been clogged by eight pieces of plastic.

Mariam's death sparked soul-searching in Thailand, where wide-spread use of disposable plastic items has made it one of the world's largest sources of plastic trash in the ocean.

Last year, a small male pilot whale was found near death in a canal near Thailand's border with Malaysia. A necropsy later revealed 80 plastic bags weighing up to eight kg in his stomach.

The announcement of Jamil's death was shared over 9,000 times within two hours.

"My tears have not dried yet," wrote Facebook user Tarn Areeya. "Go to a good place. Please send my regards to Mariam too."