The "DUGONG" or sea cow is indeed a unique animal. It is a close relative of the Manatee.
Being the only herbivorous mammal today, it has several striking features
similar to mermaids- fish like tail, brownish smooth skin, mammary glands,
woman like genitalia and even it's suckling baby.
All populations of dugong except the Australian population are listed
in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered
Flora and Fauna) and are therefore endangered. Here in the Philippines,
only three major areas may still harbor a viable population: Palawan,
Southern Mindanao and Quezon-Isabela. In other areas of the archipelago,
dugongs are known to be extinct.
can live for over seventy years. Both males and females becomes sexually
mature by age nine to ten years. Gestation period for dugongs however,
lasts for thirteen months giving birth to only one calf. It will take
another three to five years before the dugong can reproduce again.
by side it's very slow reproduction rate are the various external threats
which make them vulnerable to extinction. Dugong meat is considered
a delicacy, and is said to be tastier than beef. These defenseless creatures
were hunted through fish nets, dynamites and spears. A good number of
dugongs are also accidentally caught in fish corals and other fishing
gears. They end up being butchered and consumed by humans.
of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) issued Administrative
Order No. 55 in 1991 to protect the animal from exploitaion. Any harm
done on the dugong is now punishable by law. The Protected Areas and
Wildlife Bureau of DENR and non-government organizations have been conducting
distribution and habitat surveys and undertaking education activities
on dugong conservation.
Paradise and the Dugong
Island, home to Club Paradise, is one of the few areas in the world
where observation of the dugong in its natural habitat can be done underwater.
Since 1992, dugongs have been observed to regularly feed off the seagrass
bed of the island's docking area. Sightings of the animal were however
only recorded starting June 1994. In three years time (June 1994-June
1997) a total of 212 sightings has been recorded.
August 1994, a group of 4 dugongs was seen, while in October of the
same year, two dugongs in bouts of courtship were also sighted. A total
of 7 different dugongs had visited the area, but only one of them had
been coming regularly. This is the same dugong that has been coming
recently. This dugong is a male with some parallel scars on the back
and a distinctive scar on the left side of the body.
Paradise and the Dugong Conservation
1994, a WWF-Marine Program officer and a Fuji TV filming crew came to
Club Paradise to do a documentary on Palawan wildlife. By chance, they
were able to record a 30-minute underwater video footage of a dugong
feeding on seagrasses off the island. The footage, revealing interesting
aspects of the animal behavior, prompted the WWF to conduct a study
of the wild dugongs. This study was subsequently funded by Kabang Kalikasan
ng Pilipinas-WWF-Philippines and Toba Aquarium of Japan with the assistance
of Pawikan Conservation Project-PAWB-DENR and Club Paradise . The project
is titled 'Dimakya Dugong Conservation Project'.