Professor Helene Marsh, the leading authority on dugongs, gave a public lecture on "Challenge of conserving dugongs in our region".
In the biodiversity crisis we face today, Prof Marsh explained, the three orders of mammals at risk of extinction include the Order Sirenia to which the dugongs belong. The Order includes 3 species of manatees which are found in the Americas and Africa. While the dugong is found in our part of the world from the Horn of Africa to Australia. The manatee has a paddle shaped tail, while the dugong has a tail like a whale. Prof Marsh added that the dugong is more 'svelte' and is what a manatee would look like if it goes to the gym!
dugong feeding trail at Chek Jawa in 2007, with Wei Ling in the photo!
dead dugong that washed up on our Pulau Tekong in 2006 in this slide.
Prof Marsh then highlights an issue that I find fascinating. The idea that conservation of cultural diversity is very important to conservation of dugongs. She showed how the areas where biocultural diversity is at greatest risk (red) overlaps with the natural distribution of dugongs!
IUCN DugongStatus Report and Action Plans forCountries and Territories (pdf). She also informed that her new book is due out later this year. It is already listed on Amazon: Ecology and Conservation of the Sirenia: Dugongs and Manatees. How exciting!
Before Prof Marsh's talk, Dr Elizabeth Taylor shared about the Singapore Wild Marine Mammal Survey (SWiMMS) programme to learn more about Singapore's marine mammals.
how to tell apart Singapore's wild marine mammals.
online sighting form. SWiMMS has a website of latest sightings and a map of these sightings. I see from this site that on 18 Aug 2011, 2-3 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins were seen near Pulau Tekong!
After the talk, since we were already at the zoo and near the enclosure, a few of us dropped by to take a look at the manatees there. Observe, NOT dugongs.
May 2011 again in May 2011, Chek Jawa in Apr 2011 and Jul 2011 and even in Semakau in May 2011. More about dugongs in Singapore with links to sightings of dugong feeding trails.
Want to help protect the dugongs? Join TeamSeagrass, a group of volunteers who monitor the dugong's food!