Conservation Status : Threatened
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The dugong (Dugong dugon) is a large marine mammal which, together with the
three species of manatee, is one of four extant members of the order Sirenia, the
only fully-aquatic herbivorous mammals. It is the only living representative of the
once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's Sea Cow
(Hydrodamalis gigas) was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. It is also the only
sirenian in its range, which spans the waters of at least 37 countries throughout the
Manatees and dugongs are large, gentle animals that spend their whole lives in the
water. They are mammals and need to breathe air like you and me. Manatees and
dugongs can grow to be as long a 13 feet and can weigh up tp 3,500 pounds. That's
about the same size as a mini-bus. Manatees and dugongs have grayish tough and
wrinkled skin. They have single bristle-like hairs scattered all over their seal-like
bodies and thick whiskers on their snouts. While manatees have a paddle-shaped
tail. the dugongs have a tail that is pointed on the ends, very much like a whale's.
Both species use their tails to move their bodies through the water. They have two
limbs in the front of their body which they use for actions like steering and scooping
up food. Manatees and dugongs have very small eyes yet they can see fairly well.
They have no external ears by they can hear very well. Manatees and dugongs rest
by floating near the surface of the water or by lying on the bottom. They can hold
their breath for about 20 minutes which is much longer than we can. However, they
usually com to breathe every three to five minutes. Manatees and dugongs can live
as long as 60 years.
Manatees and dugongs live in warm, shallow, coastal waters, estuaries (where rivers
meet the sea), and in slow moving rivers in tropical parts of the world. Manatees
and dugongs have existed for more than 60 million years which means that they
were around at the same time as the dinosaurs! Manatees and dugongs are
members of the biological family named Sirenians: the dugong, the West Indian
manatee, the West African manatee, and the Amazonian manatee. There once was
a fifth type of Sirenian called the Stellar's sea cow, but it was over-hunted and
became extinct about 230 years ago. When an animal becomes extinct it means
that there are no longer any more of those animals anywhere in the world. The sea
cow is gone forever, and swims only in our memories.
|Some information & Graphics obtained from Caribbean Environment Protection, with grateful thanks
The dugong lives in the shallow water of tropical seas off the coasts of East Africa,
Australia, India, the Philippines, and other islands in the South Pacific. Dugongs look
different from manatees. Dugongs have pointed tails ( many manatees have a small
notch in the tail) and one pair of tusk-like teeth. Dugongs are seldom found in fresh
water. Dugongs rest in the deep water during the day and move towards the
shoreline at night to feed. The dugong uses its flippers for balance and moving along
the ocean floor as it grazes. Dugongs are not thought to migrate as far as the
manatees do. Like manatees, dugongs are usually found in small groups or alone. But
groups of thousands of dugongs have been seen occasionally.
In the past, manatees and dugongs have been hunted by explores, settlers, and
traders for their tasty meat and for their tough skins which were made to make boat
covers, shoes, and other heavy duty articles. The animals were also slaughtered for
their fat. Their bones and tusks were used for carvings. Hunters killed manatees and
dugongs by trapping them in nets or stick fences which were placed across rivers.
Today, hunting these animals is against the law in most countries where manatees
and dugongs live. Unfortunately, many people break the law and kill these gentle
animals for food. Once there were thousands of manatees and dugongs living
peacefully throughout the world. Sadly, it is very different now. All four of these
species are endangered. That means there are seriously few of the animals left and
the species is in danger of becoming extinct and dying out completely.
Manatees and dugongs can be saved in spite of all of the dangers they face. But we
all must take action right away. Conservationists are people who work to protect
animals, plants, and other natural resources. Conservation groups are working to
enforce laws forbidding the hunting of manatees and dugongs. They are also working
together with the government to establish refuges and marine sanctuaries
(protected areas) where manatees and dugongs can live undisturbed by hunters,
boats, and pollution. Scientists are researching manatee and dugong behaviour so
that we can better understand these animals. We must all understand these animals.
We must all understand the dangerous situation facing the manatees and dugongs
and what must be dine to protect them., You and I can help by learning and by
teaching others about these special and vanishing animals.
|Greenpeace : On September 27th we delivered your voice to the Minister of
Defense, the Minister of Environment and Prime Minister of Japan.
Please visit Save the Dugong, Stop the air base campaign site.
Homeschool unless otherwise stipulated.