Belinda Scott 28th August 2009
WHEN Hec Goodall, Troy Saville and Verne Dove leave Coffs Harbour for Cambodia on Sunday, they will be hoping it is the start of a project that will make Cambodians world leaders in the rescue of an endangered aquatic species.
Leading the team to save the Mekong River's Irrawaddy dolphins from extinction is veterinarian Verne Dove, who is assisted by her fiance, former Coffs Harbour Zoo animal curator Troy Saville.
Eighty-two-year-old marine mammal expert Hec Goodall, believed to be the only person in the world with experience in capturing Irrawaddy dolphins in the wild, has now joined the international conservation team.
Mr Goodall, the founder and principal shareholder of the Pet Porpoise Pool, also has extensive experience of captive dolphin care.
There are estimated to be only 70 freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins left in Cambodia, where they live in three isolated populations in the Mekong River.
The Mekong, which flows through four different countries, is contaminated by chemicals like PCBs and DDT and contains high level of mercury, which is affecting the dolphins' immune systems to the point where normal pathogens in their environment are killing them.
The research team's first report, with their findings on chemicals and pollutants, made international headlines and upset the Cambodian government when it was officially released on June 18, a fortnight after the Coffs Coast Advocate ran the story.