01 October 2009

Dugong’s last moments a frantic fight for survival

A 40-year-old dugong died of "sudden and massive trauma while she was grazing on seagrasses".
Photo from Phuket Gazette.

An autopsy suggests the dugong was trying to out-swim fishing nets trawling the sea bed.

This year, six dugongs have been found dead in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Most of them were killed by fishing equipment such as trawl nets.

Dugong’s last moments a frantic fight for survival
Phuket Gazette 1 Oct 09;
PHUKET: Following an eight-hour autopsy of the 40-year-old female dugong found dead off the coast of Trang on Tuesday, marine biologists say the animal died from trauma and exhaustion, most probably from trying to out swim or escape entanglement in a trawling net.

According to Phaothep Cherdsukjai, a researcher at Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), examination of the dugong’s pulmonary system revealed that the animal had endured some kind of sudden and massive trauma while she had been grazing on the sea bed.

The signs of shock and exhaustion are most likely due to her trying to out swim fishing nets trawling the sea bed, said Mr Phaothep.

“We found sea grass in her mouth, so we believe the dugong was eating when she was killed,” he added.

Mr Phaothep explained that the dugong’s heart had been pumping flat out before she died, leading them to conclude that the dugong had been trying to escape fishing nets.

Dugongs, or sea cows as they are commonly known, exist almost exclusively on a diet of sea grass. Their grazing areas are protected as non-fishing zones as a way of trying to preserve the highly endangered species. However, entanglement in trawling nets and collisions with boats are most often blamed for the cause of death whenever dugong carcases are found.


Phuket autopsy for large dugong
Phuket Gazette 29 Sep 09;
PHUKET: A large female dugong measuring almost three meters long and weighing more than a third of a ton died off the coast of Trang and was brought to Phuket for examination yesterday.

The crew of a squid fishing boat found the dugong dying in the sea between Koh Libong and Koh Laoliang in yesterday morning.

By the time officials from the Office of Marine and Coastal Resources in Trang arrived to treat the creature, she was already dead.

The officers examined the body and filed a police report. The dugong was sent to Phuket Marine Biological Center in Cape Panwa, arriving around 8pm yesterday.

Phaothep Cherdsukjai, a marine biologist at PMBC, said the creature was around 40 years old, making it middle aged, as dugongs have the same life spans as humans.

There were some suspicious scratches found on the right side of her body, Mr Phaothep said.

“Since the beginning of this year, six dugongs have been found dead in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Most of them were killed by fishing equipment such as trawl nets,” he said.

An autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of the dugong’s death tomorrow morning.

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