Dugongs – UPSC Prelims

Dugongs:
  • Dugong also called ‘Sea Cow’ is one of the four surviving species in the Order Sirenia and it is the only existing species of herbivorous mammal that lives exclusively in the sea including in India.
  • Dugongs are an important part of the marine ecosystem and their depletion will have effects all the way up the food chain.
  • Distribution and Habitat: They are found in over 30 countries and in India are seen in the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Palk Bay, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Conservation Status:
    • IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable
    • Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix I
  • Threats:
    • Dugongs graze on seagrass and the loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling is one of the most important factors behind decreasing dugong populations in many parts of the world.
    • 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.
    • Dugong meat is consumed under the wrong impression that it cools down human body temperature.
  • Why in news? Tamil Nadu government has decided to go ahead with the establishment of India’s first conservation reserve for the Dugong in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay.