Dept backs stand on dugong hunt

Dept backs stand on dugong hunt

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) yesterday insisted it did not fabricate evidence of dugong hunting in Trang, as claimed by wildlife advocacy groups.

Department director-general Thanya Nethithammakul yesterday said the agency had nothing to gain from framing villagers for dugong hunting, as its duty was to preserve the seacow-like mammal.

Mr Thanya also asked wildlife activists not to point the finger at anybody for the drop in dugong numbers, but instead cooperate with officials to conserve the species and improve the fertility of seagrass habitats.

The DNP chief's comment came after a Trang artisanal fishery network disputed a report released by Mr Thanya last week on the drop in the mammal's population in the province.

The report claimed dugong populations are being threatened by a loss of fertility in the seagrass habitat and disturbance due to fishing gear and hunting.

Currently, less than 200 dugongs live in Thai waters, of which around 130-150 are found along the coastline of Koh Libong in Trang's Kantang district.

A department source also said the island was a black market where the sale of dugong fangs and bones could fetch up to 10,000 baht per kilogramme while the mammal's meat could fetch 150 baht per kilogramme.

The source claimed to have posed as a customer to buy meat believed to belong to dugong. The meat was sent to a Phuket-based marine biological centre which later confirmed it was real dugong meat.

Following these claims, fishery network chief Aren Prakong criticised the report, insisting villagers on Koh Libong have been taking part in the preservation of dugong for the past three decades.

He said they were disheartened by Mr Thanya's accusation.

Mr Thanya said he or his deputy Pinsak Suraswadi would visit Trang to discuss the issue with residents and wildlife networks tomorrow to build understanding among villagers.

He also asked villagers who have information about dugong hunting to cooperate with the agency.

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