Dept aims for dugong preservation
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation plans to strengthen measures for preserving and conserving the dugong population with the local community's participation, saying the plan also includes increasing seagrass habitat which is the main food source for the seacow-like mammal.
Thanya Nethithammakul, chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said dugong populations are being threatened by a loss of fertility in the seagrass habitat, and disturbance due to fishing gear and man-made hunting. The department needs to develop more effective measures to limit the losses and increase their population, he said.
Many seagrass habitats were now being destroyed as some locals collect tiny and colourful fish found near seagrass sites. It is a challenging issue to figure out how to manage this problem as the location of some dugong habitats are not under the department's jurisdiction.
He stressed that cooperation from all stakeholders is important for the mammal's conservation and protection in the long run, adding the department will put more focus on local participation and is ready to stop or suspend any project if there is opposition from locals.
He referred to a controversial case against national park authorities regarding a plan to attach tags to dugongs to monitor their travels. Locals had said the project would pose a threat to the rare species as the long-tailed tag or cord might get tangled with fishing gear and cause their death. The project has been suspended by the department.
Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, said the department plans to increase the dugong population by improving the fertility of seagrass habitats, adding there is evidence of dugong populations having been found in many marine national parks in Chumphon, Phangnga and Phuket decades ago, but none or very few of them are seen now.
"If we can improve the quality of seagrass or make it fertile again, we believe the dugongs will come back to these places and their population will expand to new places, not only the main spot around Libong island in Trang province," he said.