Jan 25, 2010

Dugongs are faring better than feared in the Andaman Sea

Bangkok Post 25 Jan 10;

TRANG : The population of rare dugongs (sea cows) living in Trang waters has slightly dropped by 5-10 sea animals from last year, the latest aerial survey has found.

The population of rare dugongs, plural correct known as sea cows, in Trang waters has dropped slightly by between five and 10 from last year, allaying fears of a serious decline, a survey has revealed.
A team of Thai and foreign marine biologists conducted an aerial survey of the animals' population in the Andaman Sea near Libong and Muk islands. About 120 to 130 dugongs have been sighted were spotted during the 10-day survey, said marine biologist Kanchana Adulyanukosol of the Institute for Research and Development of Marine and Coastal Resources in Phuket.

The dugong population has slightly dropped by 5-10 from last year's survey. ''A drop in the population of these rare animals was not as worrying as feared,'' she said.

The two islands, rich in seagrass, are major habitats of dugongs. About 11 out of 12 species of seagrass have been found.

Ms Kanchana urged local fishermen not to use destructive fishing gear, especially push nets, as they pose a threat to dugongs and other sea creatures. In the past, dugongs and sea turtles have been found trapped in push nets which are used to catch prawns.

She said her institute planned to fit dugongs' tails with satellite transmitters to help marine biologists track their movements. The team also urged people to help conserve dugongs and other rare sea creatures.

On Friday, a four-year-old female dugong, weighing about 120kg, was found dead on a beach in Kantang district, Trang. The dugong, about 1m long, had severe wounds on its body believed to be caused by a push net. It is the first dugong reported to be killed in this way this year.

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