Wildlife fared better in Sri Lanka than Thailand
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2005:
Like the wildlife of India, Sri Lankan wildlife mostly
seemed to have sufficient warning to escape the tsunami–but the
wildlife of Thailand, hours closer to the earthquake that detonated
it, fared far worse.
Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society president Ravi Corea
inspected Yala National Park soon after the tsunami.
“There were reports that elephants fled the coast just before
the tsunami hit. We saw no dead animals except for two feral water
buffalo,” Corea e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “We saw large herds of
axis deer, a male elephant, many peacocks, wild boar, black-naped
hare, two species of mongoose, and a pack of five jackals,” Corea
However, Corea saw longterm threats to Sri Lankan wildlife
in the extensive damage to vegetation and fresh water sources.
“It is important to assess how salt water is affecting the
life in lakes and will affect the food chain, especially for apex
feeders such as aquatic birds, fish-eating mammals, and reptiles,”
Corea said. “Such study might help us to understand how global
warming and a resulting rise in sea level might affect inland coastal
In Thailand, by contrast, Wildlife Friends of Thailand
director Edwin Wiek reported “Only dead animals were found” in the
first days after the tsunami.
“The long tailed macaques went up into the hills in most
cases,” Wiek said. “Other mammals living in the remnants of the
mangrove forests, such as fishing cats and deer, have been seen
washed up on the shores, along with many cattle and pigs.”
There was one bright spot. Near Khao Lak, local fishers on
January 5 netted an adult female pink dolphin from a small lake
created by the tsunami at a former quarry, and released her into the
sea, a kilometer away. They acted after government officials and
representatives of animal advocacy groups and the captive dolphin
industry all failed to catch the dolphin in two days of abortive
“She swam away like a rocket. It was fantastic,” said Wiek.
The rescuers believed initially that a baby dolphin had been
swept into the lake with the adult, but photo analysis eventually
established that there was only one dolphin.
As the dolphin rescue started, kamnan (chief) Nayramit
Meepien of the island Tambon Koh Phra Thong sought help for about 40
rare kwang ma deer, whom he said were “becoming thinner and
lethargic,” from lack of fresh water and food.
“We have always taken care of them and prevented outsiders
from hunting them,” Nayramit Meepien told reporters for the Bangkok
Post and The Nation, “but now they are facing death. We are busy
collecting our dead. We need help from non-governmental
organisations or state conservationists to take care of our deer
The Bangkok Post reported that more than 100 people were
killed on the island, located near Koh Similan and Koh Surin
national parks. But there was no further word about the fate of the
Sightseeing cruise operator Somkit Puangpulee on January 16
told The Nation that a colony of 100-150 dugongs may no longer
inhabit Libong Island in Trang.
Somkit Puangpulee said he formerly escorted tourists to view from six
to 20 dugongs at a time as they grazed on kelp.
No dugongs had been seen near Libong Island since the
tsunami, Somkit Puangpulee said. Even if the dugongs survived the
tsunami itself, he added, it buried most of the young kelp that
they prefer to eat.