Animals You Might Not Have Heard About: Dugong

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Now unless you are a Harry Potter fanatic, you’ve probably never heard the word Dugong or know what one is. In this post, I’m going to introduce you to the fourth member of the Sirenia family.

The Dugong (Dugong dugon) may look like a manatee and they do belong in the same family but they are different species. The dugong is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List with a decreasing population trend. The Dugong lives between East Africa and Vanuatu.

HABITAT AND RANGE
spd0816_species_istock_000032507042_web.jpgThe Dugong lives in coastal areas in waters that are shallow to medium-deep and between 15-17ºC. The Dugong can be found in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and in the northwest and western Pacific Ocean.

MAJOR THREATS
Dugongs face threats from incidental capture from fishing gear. They are also hunted both legally and illegally. Boat strikes and boating activities such as acoustic pollution are causing problems for the dugong. There has been damage, modification and loss of their habitat and there has also been chemical pollution such as oil spills in their range. Although dugongs are legally protected in most of their range the enforcement is typically weak or non-existent.

CONSERVATION
Dugongs are covered under three international conservation conventions:

  1. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  2. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  3. The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)

They are also included in the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). The IUCN believe that the most promising initiative is the UNEP Dugong, Seagrass and Coastal Communities Initiative.

KINGDOM PHYLUM CLASS ORDER FAMILY
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Sirenia Dugongidae

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Sources:

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Lost Forever/Animals We’ll Never See Again: Steller’s Sea Cow

Stellers-Sea-Cow-Images.jpgSteller’s Sea Cow used to inhabit the shallow, cold waters of the Bering sea around the Commander Islands. The last known population was on Bering Islands in 1741 (which is also when the species was first recorded). Reports state that the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably extinct by 1768.

Hydrodamalis_gigas.jpgMany scientists believe that the hunting of the Steller’s Sea Cow was probably enough to lead the species into extinction. The Sea Cows were hunted for their meat and leather and they were an easily available source of meat for Russian fur hunters.

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However, some other scientists argue that it was the hunting of sea otters that lead to the demise of the largest Sirenia species. Sea otters ate sea urchins, the sea urchins ate the kelp that the sea cow also ate. The hunting of sea otters meant that the numbers of sea urchins soared and ultimately meant that the sea cows had less kelp readily available to eat.

More than likely it was a combination of the two factors that ultimately lead to the extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow.

Click here to read about more animals that have been lost forever.

Sources:

  • The IUCN Red List
  • Anderson, 1995