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Dugongs: Protect and preserve these wonderful creatures

Dugongs

Status: Vulnerable
Classification: Mammals
Scientific Name: Dugong dugon

The gray-coloured mammals with nostrils at the top of their snout, spending entire life in sea is called Dugongs and is the order of Sirenia. These animals of water live in the shallow areas and surfaces out only to breathe. As they graze on sea-grasses they are called as Sea Cows, and these slow moving creatures have little or almost no protection against its large predators. These migratory and herbivorous creatures are found in the shallow coastal water of Northern Australia as well in parts of Indo-Pacific Ocean. These round-headed sea animal can grow to almost 335 cm (11 feet) in length and weighs about more than 900 kg (2000 lbs.)

Dugong. Save the Australian Dugong

More about the Dugong

Similar to dolphins, the dugongs have pointed flippers and they swim by moving their tail. Their eyes and ears lie on the side of their head. The Dugongs if given suitable habitat with plenty of food, can live more than 70 years. It is under water, that dugongs communicate with squeals and squeaks. The Dugongs share a very close relationship with their calves. Most of the information on the Dugongs life history is obtained from animals that get drowned in shark nets or killed by hunters in the northern Australia. However, it has been found that Dugongs numbers are dwindling, as they are under human threats. To protect this endangered species, several legislations have been imposed in Australia.

The causes of decreasing number of Dugongs population in Australia are far too many:

Direct human threats such as hunting for its meat, as it is considered to be a traditional cuisine, effective medicine against many diseases and more importantly for its skin. They are also killed for using the bones and tusks as ornaments.

Increased fishing activity with use of large nets often destroys the coral reef resulting in unfortunate accident and killing of the dugongs.

Dugong. Save the Australian Dugong

Marine debris has also been considered to be a important factor that affects the natural habitat of dugong. Additionally, increased pollution due to oil spill threatens the natural habitat of the dugongs.

Urbanisation also has also led to increased sedimentation, soil erosion, destruction of coastal vegetation and increased water turbidity that cannot be good enough habitats for these animals.

Loss in habitat and degradation of ecosystem resulted in reduction in availability of food for the dugongs.

Dugongs are also natural prey for killer whales, crocodiles and sharks. When there is increased number of prey animals, there is reduction in dugong’s population.

Action plan to protect dugongs...

To protect the endangered species from extinction, several management agencies have established large inshore Preservation zone. Dugong hunting has been suspended until the population grows. In Australia, they have been termed as vulnerable and are listed under Nature Conservation Act, in Queensland. The most significant step that has been taken by the Australian Government is to establish Dugong protection area along the coastline. It is in this preserved zone net fishing and speedboat plying is strictly restricted. Commercial fishers are being encouraged to take steps and participate in preservation of dugongs and to provide quality sea-grass habitat for the dugong population to grow. As of now, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, seems to protect this endangered species of animal.

 
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