Earlier this year we reported on a rare sighting of around 30 Dugongs near the Koh Libong islands. Now reports have reached us of Dugongs making their home off Koh Lawa Yai island.
Main picture Dunong credit C3 Philippines
The dugong, also known as a sea cow, is closely related to manatees. Dugongs, unlike manatees, do not inhabit freshwater areas and are only found in the marine environment. Dugongs graze peacefully on sea grasses in shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.
They are listed as vulnerable to extinction due to reducing food sources and increasing pollution and boat traffic. Their slow reproduction rate is also a factor in its vulnerable status. Hunting of the animals for meat and oil severely reduced numbers over the years and although it still continues is less of a factor in Thailand now.
Both recent sightings of Dugong have been attributed to the lack of tourists and significantly reduced boat traffic which has resulted in substantially less pollution and damage caused by the boats.
This has enabled the seagrass beds to recover providing far more food than in the past.
Koh Lawa Yai is a beautiful island that has escaped mass tourism and, when allowed, is visited by relatively few numbers of tourists.
There is a hope that the dugongs will be able to successfully continue to live around the bay once tourists return.
In Thailand, dugongs are restricted to six provinces along the Andaman Sea, with very few dugongs remaining in the Gulf of Thailand which was historically home to large number of the animals, but none have been sighted in the west of the gulf in recent years, and the remaining population in the east is thought to be very small and possibly declining. Dugongs are believed to exist in the Straits of Johor in very small numbers. The waters around Borneo support a small population, with more scattered throughout the Malay archipelago.
Source: The Nation Thailand, Thai National Parks, WWF
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