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Japanese rescuers save finless porpoise stranded in rice paddy by tsunami

March 23, 2011 |  5:24 pm

PorpoiseAnimal rescuers working to save imperiled dogs and cats in the wake of Japan's earthquake and tsunami wound up helping a very different, but just as needy, sort of animal: a young finless porpoise.

The porpoise had become trapped in a flooded rice paddy in Japan's Miyagi prefecture after the March 11 tsunami and was struggling and growing weak in the shallow water.

"A man passing by said he had found the [porpoise] in the rice paddy and that we had to do something to save it," Ryo Taira, a pet-store owner who has been instrumental in rescuing animals affected by the earthquake, told Reuters.

Taira and other volunteers rushed to save the animal, fashioning a stretcher of sorts from objects -- including a futon mattress -- strewn in the area. But they were unable to catch the porpoise with a net.

Eventually, Taira managed to catch the porpoise in his arms -- a feat he speculated to Reuters was possible only because the creature was so exhausted from its ordeal.

According to Agence France-Presse, damage to nearby aquariums caused by the disaster left the rescuers with no choice but to release the porpoise into the ocean. They wrapped it in wet towels for the trip back to open water and set it free.

Taira told Reuters that the porpoise's condition seemed to improve when it was returned to the ocean. "I don't know if it will live, but it's certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy," Reuters quoted the rescuer as telling Japan's Asahi Shumbun news organization.

The story was a bright spot for marine mammal fans after news spread that 24 dolphins being kept in pens in the harbor at Taiji, the village made famous for its annual dolphin hunt in the documentary "The Cove," all died in the tsunami.

Finless porpoises -- several subspecies of which are native to coastal areas of Asia -- are so named because they do not have dorsal fins.

Want to help the animals of Japan? Discovery's Daily Treat blog has a great list of organizations working to rescue and care for dogs, cats and other creatures affected by the disaster, and the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support Facebook page offers regular updates.

MORE ON THE JAPAN EARTHQUAKE:
Full coverage from the Los Angeles Times
Photos: Destruction in aftermath of Japan earthquake

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Taira rescues the young finless porpoise from a flooded rice paddy on March 23. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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