01 June 2018

YES! Singapore got dugongs!

A live dugong was spotted at Chek Jawa in 2013! Although the animal itself is rarely encountered, dugong feeding trails are commonly seen in Singapore's seagrass meadows. Even next to industrial facilities and at public beaches.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Cyrene Reef, Dec 2017
Dugong feeding trails on Cyrene Reef
next to Pasir Panjang Container Terminals, on 3 Dec 2017.
What are dugongs? And where can we get a chance to see them?

Dugongs used to be common in the Johor Straits but were considered locally extinct by the 1980's. While in the late 1990's, there were increased encounters with dugongs in the Johor Straits, there were fewer sightings in the 2000's.

Recent sightings

A living dugong was spotted during a Naked Hermit Crab walk at high tide from the Chek Jawa Boardwalk on 6 Oct 2013!
Sadly, a dead dugong washed up on Pulau Tekong in Jun 2006. Scientists who were at the stranding shared: "Though slightly bloated from gases, the dugong carcass was in surprisingly reasonable condition and was thus further dissected. There were no extraordinary signs of physical impact and she had a stomach full of sea grass. Cause of death is unknown."
Dugong feeding trails are formed when dugongs chomp up seagrasses including their roots, leaving a shallow meandering furrow of about equal width and depth. To eat seagrasses, the dugong pulls out a mouthful of seagrasses with its thick lips, shakes it to get rid of the sand and then swallows.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Pulau Sekudu, May 2018
Dugong feeding trails on Pulau Sekudu on 17 May 2018
The dugong feeds during the night and rests in deeper waters during the day. Here's a video of a dugong feeding trail seen on Pasir Ris on 12 Jul 2017.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Pasir Ris July 2017
Seagrass is the dugong's main food. So not surprisingly, it is also sometimes called the Sea Cow!
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Changi May 2017
Dugong feeding trails on Changi on 30 May 2017
Dugongs need to eat lots of seagrass so they keep moving and are usually not permanently resident in one small location. Dugongs can travel several hundred kilometers in a few days as they feed from place to place.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Changi Apr 2018
Dugong feeding trails on Changi on 20 Apr 2018
Singapore's seagrass meadows are probably only one stop among many for dugongs that live in the area.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Chek Jawa Nov 2017
Dugong feeding trail on Chek Jawa on 5 Nov 2017.
Dugong feeding trails have also been seen in seagrass meadows on our southern islands and submerged reefs.
Dugong feeding trail in seagrass meadows, Cyrene Reef, Mar 2018
Dugong feeding trails on Cyrene Reef on 1 Mar 2018.
In fact, wherever there are seagrasses on our shores, we often see dugong feeding trails!
Flaring at Pulau Bukom from dugong feeding trails on Terumbu Pempang Laut
Dugong feeding trails on Terumbu Pempang Laut
near petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom
seen on 11 May 2012.

Dugongs are NOT the same as manatees

While the manatee has a circular tail fluke, dugongs have a forked tail fluke. The natural range of the manatee is in the tropical coasts of the Americas and Western Africa. While the dugong's natural range is from Eastern Africa, the Red Sea, through India and Southeast Asia to Australia.
Dugong (left) versus Manatee (right)
click on image for larger view

The Dugong is listed as 'Critically Endangered' in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. The dugong's natural predators are sharks, killer whales and crocodiles. But man is the main threat. Dugongs drown when trapped in fishing nets and are injured by boat propellers. Mostly, they are threatened by the loss of seagrass habitats. Dugongs used to form herds of hundreds, now groups of six are the average.

Where can I see dugongs in Singapore?

10 Jun (Sun): Chek Jawa Open House
FREE, no registration required, just come to Chek Jawa!
Chek Jawa boardwalk tour with the Naked Hermit Crabs
Volunteer guides will be stationed all over the boardwalk to share about Chek Jawa's amazing wildlife. Plus kids activities with prizes! More details.

13 June (Wed): FREE Public Talks on Seagrass!
Learn more about seagrasses from the team at the 13th International Seagrass Biology Workshop for this special series of public talks titled "Translating Seagrass Science Into Action".

MORE ways ...

Here's more about Singapore's seagrass meadows and how you can visit them and make a difference for them.

Learn more about Singapore's dugongs on the wild fact sheets on wildsingapore.

This article is written for Celebrating Singapore Shores as part of International Year of the Reef 2018.

Celebrating Singapore shores for IYOR 2018 logo

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails