Port Blair, May 26: A pair of endangered marine mammal, Dugong dugon, were sighted in the intertidal region, (11° 30’ 16”N 92° 42’02”S, 15 m from shore) at the fishing boat anchorage point near Chidiyatapu bus stand on 22nd May 2019, 10:00 hrs. The Dugong dugon were sighted and recorded by Dr.N.V.Vinithkumar, Officer-In-Charge Atal Centre for Ocean Science and Technology for Islands (ACOSTI), National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), along with fellow NIOT Scientists Dr.R.Karunakumari and Dr.Prasun Goswami. Few local people were also witnessed the sighting. The Dugong was declared as the state animal of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 2002 in order to conserve these highly threatened species.
There are only 200 individuals recorded all over from India according to a publication of Sivakumar, 2013 from Wildlife Institute of India. Dugongs are protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act (1972) of Ministry of Environment and Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Govt. of India. Dugongs are commonly known as ‘Sea cow’ and feed on marine plants particularly seagrasses.
In India they are distributed in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, Little Andaman, Ritchies archipelago, South Andaman and Middle Andaman and in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) of Andaman and Nicobar A&N Islands. Dugongs are solitary animals found as two and sometimes in more number and can live up to 70 years or more. The present pair of animals sighted in Chidiyatapu appears to be 8 feet in length. They were found foraging in the slightly muddy coastal water and surfacing regularly for breathing.
Dugong dugong belongs to Kingdom:Animalia, Phylum:Chordata, Class:Mammalia, Order:Sirenia, Family:Dugongidae, Genus: Dugong Lecepede, 1979, Species: Dugong dugon (Müller, 1776). This is the only extant (existing) species of the family Dugongidae. They are classified as Vulnerable to extinction on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List for threatened species. They are also listed on Appendix I of CITES and Appendix II of the convention on migratory species (CMS or Bonn Convention).