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Save The Endangered Dugong
Dugong near the coast of Egypt.
Dugongs - An Unusual Mammal
Although they are very similar, and are related, dugongs are not quite the same as manatees. Both species are related to elephants. Manatees have recently been removed from the endangered species list, which is great news.
Dugongs have fluked tails, similar to those of whales, whilst manatees have more rounded, paddle like tails. These animals are under threat from loss of habitat, as they mainly eat sea grasses. They use their sensitive noses to graze for their food, often leaving a trail of bare sand through the sea grasses.
The latin name for them is Dugong dugon, and they are mainly found in the Australasian and Arabian areas, although smaller populations can be found in other areas. They used to be found in over 40 countries around the world, and there are still relict populations in some of these places. These animals are also known as 'sea-cows' in some parts of the world.
These days, these fascinating mammals are protected throughout most of their range, although there is some poaching for food, unfortunately. They are a peaceful animal, and harm nothing. We should do everything we can to ensure they do not become extinct.
Dugong and Manatee Distribution
Dugong Books and Other Items
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Dugongs and Predators
Although they are a large animal, and few others can use them as prey, there are threats to the dugong. Habitat destruction is a big threat, and so are people!
Threats include crocodiles, killer whales (orcas) and large sharks. Although male dugongs have ivory tusks, these are not used for defence, and are for fighting other males, and for uprooting food. As they are slow-moving mammals, they are vulnerable to predation. Since they are slow to breed and grow, they are in danger of extinction from predation and loss of habitat. When threatened, calves often hide behind their mothers.
The animal in the photo shows quite a few scars, so it is probably fairly old, and has been through a few battles with predators. It doesn't seem to have tusks, so is most likely a female.
Dugongs From Around The World - Plus a West Indian ManateeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Dugongs In Australia
Australia has one of the largest populations of dugongs in the world, numbering approximately 70,000 in the 1990s. There are also a few thousand in the Torres Strait, and on the Great Barrier Reef.
These animals can grow up to 12 feet and weigh almost 1000 lbs. (3.5 metres and 500 kilos) Some are even bigger than that. They can live for up to 70 years, and are not mature until they are at least 10 years old.
Their skin is usually brown, and is rough and hairy, although they look smooth from a distance. Their nostrils are near the top of their heads, making it easy for them to get fresh air on the surface. They need to breathe about every few minutes.
They are found in the shallow, warm waters of Northern Australia, near coasts and the Barrier Reef. They never come on land, even though they are mammals.
Female dugongs can breed every 3 to 7 years, birthing a single calf. The calf is immediately able to swim and goes to the surface to get its first breath. The calves stay with their mothers for at least 18 months, and probably up to 2 years, during which time they will take milk from her. They can weigh up to 30 kilos (65lbs) at birth.
Dugongs are protected in Australia, but are slowly nearing extinction, mainly due to loss of habitat through pollution, and being accidentally caught in fishing nets. Dredging also destroys their feeding grounds.
It would be a tragedy if this species were to disappear from our world!