Dugong population at 20-year high

Dugong population at 20-year high

The dugong population in the South has risen at the highest rate in more than two decades, says Kongkiat Kittiwatthanawong, director of the Phuket Marine Biological Centre.

Citing preliminary results of data collected in an aerial survey conducted from Monday until yesterday, Mr Kongkiat said 210 dugongs were found and the largest herd of the mammals observed consisted of 30 members including 10 mothers and their offspring.

At least 42 couples of mother and offspring dugongs were found and counted in the survey, he said.

The survey was conducted in Trang province, the largest habitat for dugongs in the country, using a small plane flown by foreign pilots, he said, adding that the locations included in the survey were Hat Chao Mai National Park and Mu Ko Libong Non-Hunting Area.

The number of dugongs found in the Trang survey will later be analysed and used to calculate the average population of the mammals, he said.

Also found in the survey were 19 dolphins and 57 sea turtles, he said.

In last year's survey, only 169 dugongs were found, he said, adding that the latest survey reflected a rise in density of the dugong population.

A key factor contributing to the population growth in the South is believed to be successful attempts to initiate cooperation in the fishery communities in avoiding using fishing equipment that may hurt dugongs and other rare marine species.

The number of dugongs found dead on beaches last year was six, he said.

Based on this year's figures, he said the number of dugongs found next year should probably rise to between 240 and 250.

Sitakan Thawisuwan, who specialises in rare marine species, said final figures from this year's survey will be released soon.

Dugongs, commonly known as sea cows, are often found in shallow coastal waters in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.

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