The dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. It is also the only sirenian in its range, which spans the waters of at least 37 countries throughout the Indo-Pacific, though the majority of dugongs live in the northern waters of Australia between Shark Bay and Moreton Bay. The dugong is the only strictly-marine herbivorous mammal, as all species of manatee utilise fresh water to some degree.
In recent months over 100 of these fascinating sea grass munching creatures have died off the coast of Australia due to starvation. You see the dugong only eat sea grass and in the past year torrential rain and storms including the cyclone Yasi has destroyed massive areas of the dugongs only food source. Over 1000 miles of coastline has become sea grass free leaving these mild mannered creatures with nothing to eat.
Many turtles have also been washed up on the Australian coastline after suffering the same fate. Forced to move from the well known and established feeding areas will leave the dugong vulnerable to disease injury and death.
A multi billion pound gas processing plant on the edge of the great barrier reef isn’t going to help matters either but Ann Bligh has promised to make a comprehensive assessment into the plants environmental impact. Oh that’s all ok then because people like Ann always do whats best for the environment and never lie or deceive do they?
Indigenous fishermen are adding to the problem by carrying out unmonitored slaughtering of dugongs and turtles in large numbers using Australia’s Native title laws as a form of defence for their actions.
There have been reports of a dugong calf been tied to the back of a boat so that it’s cries bring in the mother and then both are killed.
It takes several years for dugong to reach sexual maturity so there numbers do not increase rapidly. It will take 2 to 3 years for the sea grass to grow back after the damage that it has suffered so the dugong are already going to have a lot to deal with.
The dugong swim slowly and have a very placid nature which makes them easy prey.
It is a sad fact that without some sort of control over the hunting of these animals that they may well become extinct. Another species that we are left with just pictures of.