Environment

Large pod of dolphins spotted playing in Thai waters empty of tourists

Bangkok, May 5 (efe-epa).- A pod of around 100 bottlenose dolphins has been photographed playing alongside a boat of environmental officials off the west coast of southern Thailand as the country’s national parks remained closed under coronavirus restrictions Tuesday.

Officials of the Mu Ko Similan National Park islands in the Andaman Sea said they were carrying out a patrol operation near neigboring Bon Island on Monday when the dolphins appeared beside them.

“While on patrol, about a hundred bottlenose dolphins gathered to swim in the west near Ko Bon, located in Mu Ko Similan National Park,” the park’s Facebook page said in a post accompanying a video of dolphins leaping out of the clear water and playing beside the boat.

The dolphins “did not show signs of fear at all” and were “swimming daringly and even jumping to greet the officials,” it added.

The park joked that it would tighten and extend the period of patrols after the sighting, fearing that manta rays and whale sharks would copy the dolphins’ behavior. The post used the hashtags #Joking and #StayHomeForTheNationAndWeWillProtectTheNatureForYou.

While around 50-100 dolphins are often found in the area, a park official told EFE that the drop in human activity is a factor in their more frequent appearances at the moment.

Amid the ban on inbound flights and with the country’s heavily touristed beaches now empty under restrictions put in place by the government to contain the spread of COVID-19, as well as the absence of the usual number of fishing boats and tourist speed boats, nature has been on the rebound.

Last month, environmentalists said the 11 endangered and rare leatherback sea turtle nests found since November on Thailand’s west coast beaches in Phuket and Phang Nga was the largest number in two decades. No such nests had been found in the previous five years.

Around the same time, Marine National Park officials in southern Trang province found a school of 22 dugongs, including mothers and their babies, feeding on seagrass off Libong Island.

Sharks have also been spotted in the shallows of some beaches, usually disturbed by the numbers of tourists bathing in the sea. EFE-EPA

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