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Rescue team save lives of marine species

Update: January, 06/2019 - 09:00
High tech: A doctor uses an X-ray to identify an obstruction in a green turtle at Đà Nẵng’s Family Hospital.
Viet Nam News

With a shared love of the sea, the six-member SaSa team has built up a network of marine species rescue centres from Đà Nẵng to Quảng Ngãi to protect endangered ocean creatures like turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales. Hoài Nam reports.

It took two days for Lê Chiến, 34, and his colleagues from the SaSa rescue team to attempt to rescue a sick green turtle, but the endangered creature could not be saved as it had ingested too much plastic waste.

The team was so sad to see the turtle passing away in vain, even after 20 pieces of plastic, including fishing net, styrofoam and bags were removed from its body.

This was the tenth green turtle that the SaSa team has attempted to rescue since it was set up to protect marine species in central Việt Nam.

The six-member team has built up a network of marine species rescue from Đà Nẵng to Quảng Ngãi in order to protect endangered ocean creatures like turtles, dolphins, sharks and whales.

The team had also helped save eight dolphins that were caught in a shoal in the central coastal beaches, and a dolphin was then named for the rescue team.

“The dolphin we first rescued on a beach in Đà Nẵng was intelligent. The small dolphin, which had been attacked by a shark and lost its family, had serious injuries on its back and tail,” Chiến recalled.

He said the team took care of the dolphin for two weeks, but it eventually could not recover from its wounds.

Chiến, who worked for OneOcean on independent research of coral reefs in Đà Nẵng, said dolphins often live in groups, or pods, and some strayed when the pod is either attacked by sharks or they become ill.

He remembered the most successful rescue of a dolphin, which was named Moon.

“We successfully rescued the dolphin and released it back to the ocean. We also swam with it before saying goodbye.”

The team said many dolphins get lost when they are in danger or stressed, and that’s why they end up getting stranded on beaches.

Ocean love

Born in Hà Nội, Chiến fell in love with the ocean and marine research. His work on coral reefs off the coast kept him in the central city.

Chiến said the team was built from six members who share a love of the ocean and marine species as well as cleaning up the coastal environment.

“Plastic waste has damaged the ocean. It is a major reason resulting in the death of various turtles that we have rescued. Turtles eat plastic on coral reefs which are covered in moss,” Chiến said.

The 34-year-old said plastic bags looked like jellyfish – a favourite food of turtles – and that explained why plastic waste often killed the creatures.

Huỳnh Tấn Trung, 30, from coastal Thanh Khê District, said each member of the SaSa team shared experience and skills in helping with voluntary rescue activities.

He said the team had to cover rescue costs themselves.

“We voluntarily reserve time and money for rescue activities. We did that out of our love of the sea,” Trung said.

Vital work: Lê Chiến (right) helps rescue a sea turtle on a beach in Đà Nẵng.
Love of the ocean: Members of SaSa rescue team save a dolphin at sea. — Photos courtesy of SaSa team
Passionate: Members of SaSa rescue team in Đà Nẵng.

The Đà Nẵng-born environmentalist makes his living from home decoration and odd jobs, while setting aside time whenever sea creatures are in danger.

“All members of the team share time to help with urgent rescues and campaigns to raise awareness about protecting the coastal environment,”


The SaSa team doesn’t yet have enough funds to build a rescue centre – where they could have full facilities and equipment for their activities.

Chiến, the team leader, said they had to shoulder the cost of the stretchers and facilities for saving stranded dolphins and turtles.

The Hanoian said the wounded green turtle, named Chi, was a special case that the team took to a private hospital for hi-tech X-Ray and endoscopy.

“Medical treatment for Chi was the first case in Việt Nam when a turtle needed support from skilled doctors and facilities. It’s also the first case that doctors used X-Ray technology to identify a digestive obstruction,” the SaSa team leader recalled.

Doctors from Đà Nẵng-based private Family Hospital spent three hours removing 20 pieces of plastic, plastic bags and styrofoam pieces that got stuck in Chi’s intestine, but Chi was too weak for the next endoscopy and died two days later, according to Chiến.

He said Chi could not swim or eat anything because the plastic waste blocked food from getting in.

Chiến said the plastic waste off the coast of Đà Nẵng could kill green turtles and fish living in coral reefs and his SaSa team spent one month cleaning out fishing nets and plastic bags off Sơn Trà coast.

The team plans to clean a 400km stretch of coast from Đà Nẵng to Bình Định as part of a voluntary campaign to keep the central beach free from garbage.

Chiến said the team has also opened a café in Sơn Trà peninsula to raise money for its vital work.

He said the team needed support in building a sea rescue centre on the beach in Đà Nẵng to respond to emergencies.

Diving equipment and a pool are needed for dolphin and turtle rescues as well as medical treatment and rescue skills education for prolonged operation of the SaSa team, Chiến said. — VNS

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