Dugongs visit tourist-free waters
Dugongs visit tourist-free waters

IT is rare to see a threatened species of sea mammal in the shallow waters of southern Thailand (泰國)but thanks to travel restrictions that have stripped popular destinations of crowds of tourists, a large group of dugongs have made their presence known.

Video footage from a Department of National Parks drone showed a 30-strong herd of dugongs off Libong island in Trang province on 22 April, where they fed on sea grass and occasionally surfaced to breathe.

Naturalists reported that other marine animals are also taking advantage of the tourism slump that is leaving coastal regions tranquil and undisturbed.

Human intrusion and marine pollution have made dugong sightings in southern Thailand rare in recent years.

“It’s quite unusual,” marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat said. “This species of mammal is very sensitive to speed boats and people. When they are gone, they feel free to gather in a large group and come close to shore.

Dugongs – closely related to the manatee or sea cow – are officially classified as ‘vulnerable’. They can grow up to 3.4 metres in length. Thailand’s populations around 250. Last year a record number of dead dugongs were found in Thai waters.

Their fate captured attention last June after images circulated of Thai veterinarians cuddling an ailing baby dugong and hand-feeding her with milk and sea grass.

Thon said there were also reports of large schools of sharks coming unusually close to shore in several places in southern Thailand, and a sighting of a pod of false killer whales.

(This article is published on Junior Standard on 7 May 2020)


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