Artificial breeding eyed to boost dolphin population in Songkhla Lake

Researchers have found that inbreeding may be to blame for disease and the dwindling population.

The Nation

The Nation



May 9, 2022

BANGKOK – At a recent press meet, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said the aim is to protect the species as it is on the brink of extinction.

Varawut recently invited reports on the environment beat for an informal briefing of his ministry’s different plans.

Also present at the chat were Sopon Thongdee, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and Ratchada Suriyakul na Ayutthaya, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Varawut said the Marine and Coastal Resources Department has studied the habitat and food consumed by the 14 dolphins in the lake and learned that the environment and diet had little to do with their falling numbers.

Instead, researchers reckon inbreeding may be to blame for disease and dwindling numbers.

Hence, the department is looking into how the dolphins in the lake can be inseminated by another herd.

Meanwhile, as a short-term measure, the department will closely monitor the lake and restrict public access, Varawut said.

He added that the department will also launch an awareness campaign among locals, especially fishermen, about the need to save the dolphins.

Varawut also called on all Thais to help preserve the country’s natural resources now that the country has reopened to tourists. He noted that over the past three years when the country was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many areas have “healed” themselves and are beautiful again. He said these areas can serve as magnets to draw in the tourists.

Some 52 per cent of coastal areas, especially dugong feeding sites, have been rehabilitated. He also said that now there is about 1.7 million rai of fertile mangrove forests.

This improvement has led to an increase in the dugong population to 255 from 221 in 2019, while sea turtles’ nests have risen to 502 from 373 in 2019. Also, rare animals like whale sharks are being spotted more often.

The government will also encourage the business sector to adopt a net-zero emission policy to help tackle climate change. He pointed out that climate change has led to a rise in the temperature of the oceans, bleaching of corals and other environmental issues.

As to whether the entrance fee into Maya Bay will be raised to protect the environment, he said the government will wait for the economy to revive before the measure is discussed.

As for raisers of red-whiskered bulbuls calling for the bird to be removed from the list of protected species, Varawut said the birds have risen in number because they are on the list. He fears that if they were removed from the list, their numbers would drop again.

However, he said, the government will later study the population of red-whiskered bulbuls and their threats before making a decision.

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