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Dugong found off India's north-west coast

13/01/2013 15:19:04

The dugong carcass spotted off Mithapur coast. Photo credit Wildlife Trust of India

Rare dugong carcass spotted off Gujarat coast; sparks hope of a nearby population
January 2013: In a rare find, a dugong carcass was spotted off the Gujarat coast. The animal, about 5 feet in length, has been taken in for autopsy by authorities.

Professor BC Choudhury, Senior Advisor and Scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India (WTI), said, "It's unfortunate that the animal is not alive but this is still exciting news. For years there have only been speculations of their presence here, with evidence extremely rare."

Dugongs (Dugong dugon) are large shy marine mammals, popularly known as ‘sea cows' since their diet primarily consists of sea grass. Existing information suggests that the dugong population in India is restricted to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch.

RD Khamboj, Chief Conservator of Forests and Director - Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park (GoKMNP), said, "This is good evidence that GoKMNP is a habitat for dugongs. It may be the sea grass beds along GoK that attract them here."

He added that more information could be ascertained once the autopsy is done. "This is apparently a female (possibly a juvenile), and this could mean the possibility of a breeding population nearby."

Few sightings
Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN red list, there have only been scattered sightings over the past decade, off the Gujarat coast, including one in 2002, and one reportedly photographed in 2012.

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