Status of the World Dugong Population by Country
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Purpose of this page is to provide the country-by country information, accessible through The Map.
Once widely distributed, the dugong has disappeared from many parts and is under serious threat in most of the remaining area. In India, the dugong occurs in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Dugongs still occur around Ritchie’s Archipelago, North Reef, Little Andaman, Camorta, Little Nicobar and part of the great Nicobar Islands.
Dugongs were common in the 1950s, but the population has dropped drastically in the recent past, as evidenced by sporadic sightings and rare records of poaching. Most of the tribes, namely Andamanese, Onges and Nicobares, traditionally hunt dugongs with iron harpoons tied to the boat. None of the tribes, except Andamanese of Strait Island, go on regular hunts because of the time and effort it takes to catch a dugong. The settlers from mainland India are mostly Hindus (Bengali- and Hindi-speaking) and do not like dugong meat as it looks and tastes like beef.
The fishermen had sighted five dugongs on separate occasions between 1990 and 1994 along the northwestern side of Camorta Island, five near Dugong Creek and Hutby, and four each in Little Nicobar and Great Nicobar islands. Besides those in the southern Andaman Islands, dugongs were seen by fishermen and local residents around Ritchies Archipelago on at least five separate occasions during 1990-1994. Most sightings took place in seagrass beds during high tides in the early evening.
The primary reason for the decrease in the dugong population in this island group is habitat loss, which has resulted from increasingly heavy boat traffic and faulty land use practices such as conversion of forests to banana, areca nut and coconut plantations. Natural calamities like cyclones and high-energy tidal storms may also be partly responsible. In fact, a wounded and dead dugong was noticed by Andaman Public Works Department workers near Pilo Kunji on Great Nicobar Island after a cyclone in July 1989.
The study concludes that dugongs are less abundant than in the recent past. Although dugong numbers are greatly reduced and large populations are no longer seen, dugongs still exist at least around Ritchies Archipelago, North Reef, Little Andamans, Camorta (Allimpong and Pilpilow), Little Nicobar and parts of Great Nicobar islands.
Populations were reported from parts of Sri Lanka
"...occurring in limited numbers in various locations. 60 Dugong have been counted in Trang province in southern part of Thailand"
Dugongs used to be common in the Johor Straits, but numbers have been reduced since the 1980s and they were considered locally extinct by some Malaysians. However, they 'have featured in the news in peninsula Malaysia since late January, when a dugong calf was caught in a fishing net in Johor. The calf was maintained in a kepong or fish trap for nearly six weeks, and became a star attraction during this period. Its carcass was recovered within 48 hours of its being released, causing further controversy. Since then another four dugong carcasses have been recovered in the area, two of them from an abandoned kepong. No food was reportedly found in the stomachs of these animals at necropsy. Two more dugongs were captured by a fisherman and released. I have been invited to go to Malaysia in May to help design a research program.
October 2000's Sirenews: Evidence For a Resident Dugong Population in the Johor Straits, Between Malaysia and Singapore. Before 1990, dugongs were rarely reported in the Johor Straits, in Malaysian waters or in Singapore. From 1924 to 1990 there were only 11 known sightings and strandings of dugongs in this area. In contrast, between 1994 and March 1999 reports of 12 strandings, 6 live individuals caught in fishing nets (2 were mother and calf pairs), and 22 aerial survey sightings suggested that dugongs inhabit the area. In fact, dugongs were considered only as transitory in the Johor Straits area until the observations made in 1999 strongly supported the hypothesis that all stranded and sighted individuals might belong to a resident population. The results of genetic studies conducted on 2 stranded juveniles are consistent with the hypothesis of a resident population. They showed that the 2 individuals, washed ashore 2 months apart, were closely related, most likely siblings. As the only social unit identified for dugongs is the cow-calf pair, it is unlikely that siblings would have traveled there from separate home ranges. Furthermore, past research on seagrass distribution combined with the 2 aerial surveys conducted by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia on the 25th of March 1999 and again with the assistance of Professor Helene Marsh on the 11th of May 1999 identified several seagrass beds in the area, some with feeding trails in Halophila ovalis, which is a species preferred by dugongs. Based on the hypothesis of a resident dugong population, long-term research studies have been launched. An integrated study of endangered marine species in the Exclusive Economic Zone waters of Malaysia, with special emphasis on the dugong and its habitat, has been recently proposed by the Department of Fisheries, Malaysia, and the Singapore Wild Marine Mammal Survey project (SWiMMS) also includes dugong distribution and abundance assessments among its main goals.
At least three live dugongs have been seen off Tanjung Pengeleigh during dedicated aerial surveys, and authorities are talking of gazetting a marine park to provide protection. Meanwhile, fishers have been asked to demolish disused kepongs and to monitor active kepongs regularly.
Sabah, Malaysia. - The dugong population has not been formally censused in the Sabah area. Dugongs are still sighted by fishermen, who believe them to be decreasing in abundance. Although dugongs are totally protected by law, sometimes they are accidentally captured in fishing nets or killed by illegal fishing using explosives. Meat is illegally sold in the market.
During an expedition to the Con Dao Islands by scientists from the Haiphong Institute of Oceanology in March-April 1996, we were informed that a dugong had been caught in a fishing net in Con Son Bay in July 1993. This dugong was reportedly 1.2-1.4 m long and weighed 40-45 kg. Because no scientists or fixatives were available on the island, photographs of the dugong were made by a tourist and the dugong was then given to a fisherman for food. We have only two photos of this dugong given us by Mr. Le Xuan Ai, Director of Con Dao National Park.
Fishermen from Hong Kong who were culturing coral reef fishes in Con Son Bay informed us that they often saw a group of 7-10 dugong there during the period June-October, when the sea grass beds are better developed. Four species of sea grass are present at Con Dao: Thalassia hemprichi, Halophila ovalis, Halodule tridentata, and Syringodium isoetifolium. (from Sirenews)
At full moon dugongs come over from a nearby bay to Bunaken, to feed on seagrass meadows, which are only accessible for them during spring tide. Recently trips are arranged for tourists from Bunaken to the dugong area near Manado.
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