Dugongs need our help. Their numbers are decreasing drastically. But why?
How many dugongs remain in the world? Conservationists and wildlife experts have tried to answer this question for a long time. In this blog post, we will discuss the current state of dugong populations, the challenges in accurately measuring dugong populations, and how we can help protect these majestic creatures. What, you don't know what a dugong is? Oh, I'm sorry. Let me answer that for you.
What is a dugong?
A dugong is an aquatic mammal that looks very similar to a manatee. You can find them mainly in the Indo-Pacific region. Locations include the southern coasts of India, Southeast Asia, northern Australia, and the Red Sea.
Dugongs are large, grey-brown mammals easily identified by their long snouts, which they use to search for food on the seafloor. Dugongs are large mammals, are most prominent around their middle, and their tail (also known as a fluke) helps to move them quickly through the water.
You will likely see them close to shore because that is where their food source is. Dugongs are herbivores, so their main diet is sea grass and algae. Oh, yum, right?
It is not unusual to hear of them traveling many miles looking for food. If conditions are right, they can live up to 70 years old.
Threats to Dugongs
Despite persistent conservation efforts, dugongs continue to face several threats. Wouldn't you know that one of the biggest threats is people? Fishing and boat traffic take a significant toll on their numbers. Additionally, dugongs are hunted for their meat, hide, and oil; their populations have been further depleted by harvesting their eggs. Last but not least, dugongs are losing their habitat because of massive coastal destruction.
Due to their slow reproduction rate and vulnerability to human activities, dugongs are considered an endangered species. Dugongs are "functionally extinct" in China, according to several sources. Several conservation efforts have been launched to protect these creatures in recent years.
For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the dugong as a vulnerable species. The IUCN network works with local communities to identify areas where dugongs are present and helps to raise awareness of the importance of protecting these creatures.
Another organization actively practicing conservation efforts for the dugong is the Australian government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). They are the leader in monitoring Reef conditions throughout the year. and issue regular Reef health reports.
Estimating Dugong Populations
Due to the difficulties in accurately measuring dugong populations, estimates of their numbers vary widely. According to the IUCN, between 20,000 and 50,000 dugongs remain worldwide. However, some estimates put this number as low as 7,000, while others suggest that as many as 100,000 remain.
Why can't organizations be more accurate with their estimates? These beautiful and docile creatures are no small fry; they should be easy to see, right? They might be large; however, they are not going to pop up and say, "Here I am; count me." Below are just three reasons we can't pinpoint their numbers with accuracy.
Dugongs are found in remote, hard-to-reach places.
The low reproductive rate of dugongs makes it challenging to measure their numbers accurately.
Due to their migratory nature, dugongs may be present in different areas from year to year.
It's not like the water they frequent is crystal clear. The water is often murky, and the sea grass makes perfect hiding places.
Because they are docile doesn't mean they will come right up to your boat.
There are four species of sea cows, one of them being the dugong and three others being manatees. All four of them are part of the order Sirenia. At a distance, they may be mistaken for each other. For example, scientists may have captured a dugong only to have to release it because it's a manatee and vice versa.
Research comes to the rescue.
To accurately measure dugong populations and assess conservation efforts' effectiveness, several research initiatives have been launched in recent years.
Other research initiatives include the International Dugong Census, a collaborative effort between the United Nations Environment Programme and the IUCN. The census uses satellite tracking to monitor the movement of dugongs and to identify areas of high dugong concentrations.
Applying environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches to marine systems has emerged as a promising tool for single-species detection and biodiversity monitoring. According to The Asahi Shimbun Company, a joint partnership between the Ryukoku University's Graduate School of Science and Technology in Otsu and the Toba Aquarium in Toba are studying the effects of using eDNA to monitor dugong populations.
What can we do to save the dugongs?
Even if we don't live where dugongs and manatees live, we can still do our part in protecting these beautiful, gentle giants. Below are a few ways:
Protect sea grass vegetation that feeds the Sirenians.
Avoid pulling your boat over the sea grasses and destroying the vegetation if you're a boater.
Keep your eyes open if you're in the shallows or even deeper to avoid hitting them. Again, if boating, be alert.
Prevent pollutants, nutrients, and herbicides from agriculture and other land-based activities from flowing into creeks and rivers.
If you're a writer, spread the word about the importance of conservation. Education is critical to the survival of all inhabitants of the oceans and seas.
Reduce the use of single-use plastics: Plastic pollution is a significant threat to marine life, including dugongs. We can reduce our use of single-use plastics like straws, bags, and bottles and properly dispose of them.
Support sustainable fishing practices: Dugongs are often accidentally caught in fishing nets or hunted for meat and oil. Supporting sustainable fishing practices can help reduce the accidental killing of dugongs.
Encourage responsible tourism: Dugongs are often threatened by boat traffic and human habitat disturbance. Encouraging responsible tourism practices, such as avoiding disturbing their habitats or feeding them, can help reduce the negative impacts of tourism on dugongs.
Support research and conservation efforts: There is still much to learn about dugongs and their habitats. Supporting research and conservation efforts can help us better understand their needs and protect their habitats.
A rising call to the masses
Dugongs are an iconic species of the Indo-Pacific region, and their populations are in danger of being wiped out due to human activities. To protect these creatures, it is essential that we accurately measure their populations and take action to protect their habitat.
Fortunately, a number of organizations are working to protect dugongs, and individuals can help by supporting these organizations and spreading awareness about the plight of these creatures. By taking action, we can help ensure that dugongs remain a part of our world for generations.
How many dugongs remain in the world? The exact number is hard to determine, but with the help of research initiatives and conservation efforts, we can get closer to finding a definitive answer.
What is my key takeaway? I can do everything I can to aid in conservation efforts. I have provided great ways that we can support the cause. Stand with me and act now!
Contact me at Borlok Virtual Assistants if you have any questions.