From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Dugong
Mains level : NA
The dugong, commonly known as the sea cow, is fighting for its survival in Indian waters experts have said on the eve of ‘World Dugong Day’ on May 28, 2020.
Try this question from CSP 2015:
Q) With reference to ‘dugong’, a mammal found in India, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1) It is a herbivorous marine animal.
2) It is found along the entire coast of India
3) It is given legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 only
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 3 only
- Dugongs are mammals, which means they give birth to live young and then produce milk and nurse them.
- It is the flagship animal of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park.
- Once the female is pregnant, she will carry the unborn baby, called a foetus for 12-14 months before giving birth.
- Female dugongs give birth underwater to a single calf at three to seven-year intervals.
- Dugongs graze on seagrass, especially young shoots and roots in shallow coastal waters. They can consume up to 40 kilograms of seagrass in a day.
- Dugongs are an IUCN Endangered marine species like sea turtles, seahorses, sea cucumbers and others.
- They are protected in India under Schedule I of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972.
Threats to dugongs
- Human activities such as the destruction and modification of habitat, pollution, rampant illegal fishing activities, vessel strikes, unsustainable hunting or poaching and unplanned tourism are the main threats to dugongs.
- The loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling was the most important factor behind dwindling dugong populations in many parts of the world.
Why needs urgent attention?
- There were just 250 dugongs in the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat according to the 2013 survey report of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
- Hundreds of dugongs inhabited waters off the Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh coasts two centuries back. But they are extinct in these areas now, he added.
- Seagrass in Odisha’s Chilika Lake is a proper habitat for dugongs. However, there is not an extant population in Chilika.
- The 13th CoP of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of the UNEP, was hosted by India this year at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
- India is a signatory to the CMS since 1983.
- India has signed non-legally binding Memorandums of Understanding with CMS on the conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008) and Raptors (2016).
- Proper conservation is the only way to save dugongs from extinction. Conservation in other places like Australia has seen their population crossing 85,000.