Second young dugong dies in Thailand

Staff of Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeding medicine to Jamil, a young dugong, at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Thursday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Staff of Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feeding medicine to Jamil, a young dugong, at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre on Thursday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sick calf's death after op follows that of female calf who won hearts online

An orphaned dugong in the care of Thai veterinarians died on Thursday, less than a week after the loss of another calf which had become a social media darling for its human-friendly antics.

Jamil, a male dugong about four months old, 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 Centre.

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

This 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 (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), but couldn't bring him back. Jamil died peacefully at 9.43pm," the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources wrote in its Facebook post.

Just five days before Jamil's death, another orphaned dugong about eight months old died in a nursery tank in Trang province.

Mariam was found washed ashore, also in Krabi, in April, and became the nation's darling 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 into a lovable icon of marine conservation.

Tens of thousands of people watched Facebook Live 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 into an infection.

She was moved to a tank for her protection, but stopped eating and became dehydrated.

After Mariam died last Saturday, a necropsy revealed that her intestines had been clogged by eight pieces of plastic.

 

Her death sparked soul-searching in Thailand, where widespread 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 that 80 plastic bags, weighing up to 8kg, were in his stomach.

The announcement of Jamil's death was shared more than 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2019, with the headline 'Second young dugong dies in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe