Rare sighting: Five live dugongs
The dugong is the most threatened marine mammal and is likely to disappear from our waters soon. Occasionally carcasses of dead animals emerge reminding us of their plight and the sighting of a live dugon is very rare.
However this week a local tour operator Samith Ishan Fernando got lucky and was able to photograph a group of five dugongs. Mr.Fernado runs a boat service for tourists along the Puttalam lagoon where they usually spot dolphins. But on this day he spotted a creature that he immediately knew was different to a dolphin. When he took his boat closer he was overjoyed on seeing the now rarer sighting of not just one but five dugongs. “There were spotted in the water for about 10 minutes before disappearing," Mr. Fernando told the Sunday Times.
Records indicate that at least 12 dugongs are killed in Sri Lankan waters. Considering their rarity, this is a worrying prospect as many killings probably go unrecorded points out Prasanna Weerakkody of the Ocean Resources Conservation Association.
The dugong is also known as the ‘sea cow’ for its habit of grazing on seagrasses on the ocean bed.
This species is threatened because of over fishing and coastal development. The seagrass that they feed on is also fast disappearing.
In 2015, the “Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project” was initiated to conserve these mamals and their seagrass habitats around the world. Plans are being made to declare a marine protected area with the aim of protecting dugongs said Dr Lakshman Peiris of the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
A closeup of one among the five
Pix by Samith Ishan Fernando