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Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] [MONTHLY REPORT] Under the Sea - How Tamil Nadu Forest Department conserves Sea Cows

by Ananya Singh | 18-01-2020 17:53 Comments 6 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations

The Dugong or the Sea Cow is in the "vulnerable" category of the Red List of the IUCN and is a Schedule-I animal. And since dugongs (sea cows) and seagrass species, the most productive plant communities, are interdependent and interrelated, the extinction of dugongs is threatening seagrass globally. Interestingly, seagrass can sequester up to 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean even though it occupies only 0.1% of the total ocean floor. Conserving dugong, thus, improves not only sea grass but also helps mitigate global warming.

Due to the threats faced by dugong from humans, crocodiles, large sharks and killer whales, their distribution range in certain parts of the world is now absent. Research has shown that where there is no human impact, dugong population increases only by about 5% per annum. If more than about 2% of adult female dugongs are killed every year, their population will decline drastically. Dugongs are harvested for food, meat, oil, medicaments etc. When females are hunted, it leads to reduction in the breeding stock. Activities such as pollution, trawling and silt accumulation by mining, mismanagement of catchment or coastal development has an adverse impact on the population of dugongs. Loss of seagrass due to large scale floods can destroy their feeding and breeding grounds. The noise by vehicles such as boats may scare the animals and fishing lines and nets can prove fatal. 

Current and long-term monitoring of dugongs shows that their populations can be maintained or recovered by ensuring the protection of their habitats, reducing their deaths due to fishing. Research and monitoring scientists are tracking dugongs through the aerial survey method to determine the grazing areas, duration and depths of dives, movements between grazing areas and between regions. By identifying the main feeding areas through aerial tracking, the management of net fishing and boat traffic in these areas are regulated. Population management can be done by creating awareness among the fishing community.

Thus, the Thanjavur Forest Division (in India) has been conserving sea grass in Palk Bay in order to save the endangered sea cow as well as mitigate climate change. The forest department creates awareness about the mammal among fishermen and motivates them to let go of the mammals by giving awards and compensation for the loss of fishing nets. The awareness campaigns proved meaningful as in December, 2016, the fishermen from Keezhathottam village who caught two dugongs accidentally informed the Forest Range Officer (FRO), Pattukottai. The dugongs were released into the sea at Manamelkudi near Kattumavadi. One more dugong was also released at Kodimunai on January 30, 2017 and the fishing villagers who released the dugongs were duly compensated by the forest department. Besides, the persons who gave information about the movements of dugong were also rewarded.

Sea grass grows in abundance in Palk Bay, which is a strait between Tamil Nadu and Mannar, Northern Province, Sri Lanka and also a highly productive coastline in the southeast coast of India. The Tamil Nadu Forest Department has taken up a seagrass rehabilitation project which also targets the conservation of dugongs near Manora village, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu in Palk Bay. The Species Conservation Action Plan for Sea Cow was organised by the Thanjavur Forest Division in 2016 under the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project. The Japan International Cooperative Agency financially supported the project and various departments were involved in the training workshops, including marine police, fisheries, veterinary and police. 

Awareness programmes have been organised in many coastal villages, such as Kazhumanguda, Karanguda, Mallipattinam, Chinnamanai, Manora, Velivayal, Pillayarthidal, Somanathanpattinam, Sethubhavachathiram, along the coast of Thanjavur. Street plays with dance, music and drama explained the value of sea grass for sustainable fishing and conservation of dugongs. Hoardings, booklets and brochures were distributed among the fishing villages, schools, colleges and other line departments.

sea cow


Hyeongmin Mentor

  • Hyeongmin Mentor says :
    Hello Ananya

    I could learn about the situation of dugong. I totally agree with the importance of saving dugong, since it plays huge role in the marine environment, and help controlling the global warming. Although the situation of dugong is pretty severe, it's good to see that there is a possibility of maintaining the population of dugong. I hope those programs to save dugongs come to be efficient at the end.

    Thank you for the great report!
    Posted 20-01-2020 13:14

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about Forest Department conservation of Sea Cows in TamilNadu

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 20-01-2020 04:54

Asmita Gaire

  • Asmita Gaire says :
    Greetings ananya
    I hope you are doing well

    I can understand how something imfrimtnof our eyes is going to be endangered and gradually extinct still we have time to stop it all.
    Thank you so much for this report.
    Green cheers

    Asmita Gaire
    Posted 19-01-2020 11:12

Aarati Khatri

  • Aarati Khatri says :
    Hello Ananya, Reading about 'Dugongs ' is totally a new experience for me. Every line unfolds the interesting subject to me.
    Keep on spreading knowledge through your writtings.

    Posted 18-01-2020 23:27

Lisa Mentor

  • Lisa Mentor says :
    Hey Ananya,
    this is your mentor Lisa.

    I was very surprised when I started to read your article because dugong is my favorite sea animal!
    I thought that dugong is still a very unfamiliar sea animal to many so I was very glad to see it as your topic of the report:)
    As you have well stated, the dugong is sadly an endangered species due to ruthless huntings that mankind have conducted.
    Although there are many awareness programs worldwide, I feel like we still need more!!

    Let's work together:)
    Green cheers!
    Posted 18-01-2020 22:06


  • ALOK DHAKAL says :
    Thanks for letting us know about 'The Dugong', It was total new to me.
    Keep Writing!
    Posted 18-01-2020 21:02

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