The National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conversation Department said the dugong – also known as a phayoon – named Mariam is being taken care of by veterinarians, park officials and residents on Koh Libong off Kantang district in Trang.
“She snuggled up to me like a baby elephant,” veterinarian Pattaraphol Maneeorn wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday (June 11). The vet is well known for saving injured elephants.
He praised officials, volunteers and residents who joined hands to help the mammal.
“She is a bit thin. Nutrition is one of the most important steps,” he told Thai PBS on Wednesday.
Mariam, about one year old, weights 30 kilogrammes and is 1.20 metres long, according to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conversation Department.
Fishermen in Libong gave her the name Mariam to show their deep affection for dugongs.
The baby was found lying ashore at Ao Theung in Muang district of Krabi on April 26 and was helped back to the Andaman Sea. But Mariam followed coastal fishing boats back to the shore again. Park officials decided to take her to a phayoon conservation area off the island for her own safety.
Chatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said Mariam might have lost her mother at sea.
Worried about her chances of survival alone in the Andaman Sea, officials and veterinarians decided to tend her themselves. Mariam is the first phayoon in Thailand to be taken care of by humans.
Every day she is fed with milk and vitamins to keep her healthy. Officials also teach her to eat sea grass to help her adapt to life in nature. She will be released from six months to a year from now, depending on her condition.
“Her health is improving,” Mr Chatuporn said. “When Mariam is fully fit and can search for food by herself, she will be released to the sea.”
Mariam thinks an orange kayak is her mother as its shape is similar to that of a dugong. Officials have created a safe zone for her to swim by banning all fishing vessels from the sea off Ban Batu Puteh where she lives.
The hashtag #Mariam in Thailand is widely followed on Twitter, with netizens cheering her on and praising the officials caring for her.
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