dugong

Dugong and 1st Dugong conservation reserve with Map

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Dugongs are the large marine mammal and they spend their entire lives in water. They are so large that they reach a maximum height of 3 metres and a weight of 500 kg. Dugongs remain submerged in water and they use their front legs to swim. They are vulnerable because they are hunted for their meat, skin, and horns.

Dugong cow of the sea

  • The dugong dugon is also known as a sea cow. 
  • They are grey-coloured marine mammals with streamlined bodies.
  • IUCN status: Vulnerable 
  • Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Dugong conservation reserve

  • On India’s southeast coast, Tamil Nadu has established India’s first dugong conservation reserve in the Gulf of Mannar and the nearby Palk Bay.
  • The reserve will cover 500 square kilometres in Palk Bay on Tamil Nadu’s southeast coast. 
  • It is a flagship species in the region, found along the Tamil Nadu coast between India and Sri Lanka.

Conservation Status

  • Dugong IUCN status: Vulnerable 
  • Also included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which makes the trade of the species and its components illegal.
  • In India, dugongs are protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Act 1972, which prohibits the slaughter and sale of their flesh.
dugong

Dugongs 

  • The Dugong, often known as the sea cow, is a herbivorous mammal. They may reach three metres in length, weigh 300 kilogrammes, and live for 65 to 70 years, feeding on seagrass and rising to the surface to breathe.
  • They are long-lived creatures with a low reproductive rate and a long generation time and make a heavy investment for each offspring.
  • It is the only living member of the family Dugongidae and the only herbivorous mammal that is exclusively marine.
  • They may be spotted in over 30 nations, which includes India’s Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Palk Bay, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies dugongs as Vulnerable.
  • The loss of seagrass beds, water pollution, and coastal ecosystem degradation caused by construction activities have made life difficult for these slow-moving creatures. They are frequently killed through entrapment in fishing nets and collisions with vessels and trawlers.
  • Dugongs are included in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which makes the trade of the species and its components illegal.
  • In India, they are protected under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Act 1972, which prohibits the slaughter and sale of their flesh.
  • Elephants are considered to be their closest relatives. 
  • Unlike dolphins and other cetaceans, sea cows have two nostrils and no dorsal fin.

Physical Description

The body structure

They move slowly and use a crescent-shaped tail and flippers to propel themselves. They may reach a maximum height of 3 metres and a weight of 500 kg. The hair on the body is irregularly distributed, and the skin is thick, robust, and smooth. The fissure in the top lip protrudes across the mouth. The animal’s mouth angles downward, allowing it to graze on the seafloor. Males are found to have tusks.

Family Order of Dugong

The sole species in the genus Dugong that belongs to the order Sirenia. Sirenia is named after a mythological figure known as a siren in Greek mythology. It looked like a mermaid. Manatees can be found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, but dugongs can only be found in saltwater.

Distribution and habitat

Dugong in india

  • Dugongs are now reported in India in the Gulf of Mannar, the Gulf of Kutch, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • These Sea Cow live in shallow coastal waters in the Indian Ocean. They are extensively spread; however, the distribution is discontinuous and uneven. The population of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Mannar has declined dramatically. Northern Australia has the most number of Dugongs. 
national park in tamil nadu
national park in tamil nadu

Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park

Gulf of Mannar is the first marine Biosphere Reserve not only in India but also in the entire south and southeast Asia. The Gulf is part of the southward extension of the Bay of Bengal as it meets the Indian Ocean. This sea of the Gulf of Mannar may aptly be termed as a marine province in a geographical sense. It straddles across two countries – India and Sri Lanka. Gulf of Mannar has been declared as a Marine National Park in 1986 by the Government of Tamil Nadu and later as the first Marine Biosphere Reserve of India in 1989 by the Government of India.

The Gulf of Mannar is the biologically richest coastal region in India, having more than 4,200 species of plants and animals within its boundaries. In the Gulf of Mannar, one can see the globally vulnerable dugong, several species of dolphins and whales and endangered sea turtles. Furthermore, the Reserve is home to sea horses, fishes, sea cucumbers, sponges, all kinds of corals. In addition, more than 290 species of birds are found on islands in the reserve. Vital to the ecology of the reserve is the 11 species of mangrove which act as important fish nurseries. Green Tiger Prawn is extensively harvested here for export.

In conclusion, the new Dugong conservation reserve in India will help protect these marine mammals from becoming extinct. It is important that we do what we can to protect these creatures, as they play a crucial role in the health of our oceans. We must continue to raise awareness about the importance of Dugongs, and work together to ensure their future survival.

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