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The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) has expressed concern over the changed foraging behavior of “Chinese White Dolphins” also known as “Pink Dolphins”. The reason is believed to be an increase in the number of Pink Dolphin observation cruises.
Mr. Sophon Thongdee, the Director of the Office of Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation under the supervision of the DMCR, says that around forty dolphins living in the sea off Khanom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province are found to have changed their foraging behavior after being fed by tourists.
The dolphin watch cruises have become very popular. Tourists give them small fish and bread to motivate them to come as close to the boats as possible so that they can take photos with the dolphins.
According to Mr. Sophon, this makes the dolphins become docile and familiar with humans which may have a long-term effect because they will just wait for food from humans rather than forage for food as they naturally do. A similar change in behavior happened with monkeys living in Khaoyai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
The food given to the dolphins may also be contaminated with harmful chemicals and eating rotten fish can cause deaths among the dolphins, eventually leading to their extinction.
Mr. Sophon revealed that the DMCR will first deal with the problem by using clear signs on piers and beaches to prohibit tourists from feeding the dolphins and any species of fish. It plans to invite local authorities and residents to be briefed on the ultimate impact of the dolphins’ changing behavior. All the measures are expected to be instigated by early 2015.