Rare sight­ing: Five live dugongs

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS - By Malaka Ro­drigo

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

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