Who are dugongs, extinct in China?

The Zoological Society of London, together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted a study, as a result of which it turned out that dugongs aquatic mammals became extinct in the southern waters of China. Their & nbsp; the population was reduced with the & nbsp; the 1970s, and & nbsp; & nbsp; 2008 Dughoni near & nbsp; coasts and & nbsp; at all, the researchers interviewed residents of 66 & nbsp; fishing communities in & nbsp; Chinese provinces and Fujian, and also studied the records of recorded dugong activity. Only three of 788 respondents reported having seen these animals within the past five years, but scientific observations have failed to confirm this, and scientists have concluded that the dugong in China is functionally extinct. The latest evidence of meetings with dated in 2008 .

Dugong. Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org/Julien Willem

Dugong  — the only species of aquatic mammals from the dugong family. This same family includes three extinct species, the most famous of which — Steller's cow, discovered and very quickly exterminated in the second half of the 18th century. These are herbivorous marine animals that live in shallow water and feed on aquatic plants and algae. On & nbsp; the bottom they often “walk” on the front fins, and vegetation is torn off with the help of a muscular upper lip.

In ancient times, sailors mistook dugongs for mermaids, and the very word “dugong”, derived from the Malay duyung, means “sea maiden”; or “mermaid”. Eyewitnesses say that when the female of this animal feeds a cub, she sticks her head out of the water and holds it with flippers, from a distance resembling a woman breastfeeding a child.

Outside of China, this species is distributed in the tropical and subtropical coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but is endangered everywhere. In the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the dugong is listed as a “vulnerable species”, that is, it has a high risk of becoming endangered. For centuries, it has been hunted for its meat, fat, hide, and bones, which were used to make ivory-like crafts. And in the countries of Southeast Asia, some parts of the body of dugongs were used in traditional medicine.

Now the extraction of these animals is allowed only as a trade of aboriginal peoples. But even in protected areas they are hunted by poachers, and, in addition, a huge number of individuals die from fishing gear. According to the scientists who conducted the study in China, it was fishing and collisions with ships, and habitat destruction in general, that became fatal for the local population. And this destruction is associated with human activities: coastal waters are polluted with biogenic elements, which disrupts the natural growth of algae, which are the main food for dugongs.

These animals in China since 1988 were officially protected by the state , but even this status did save them from extinction. Despite the fact that now the authorities of the Celestial Empire are taking measures to restoring seaweed, scientists fear that time has been lost and the population will not be saved .

A disappearance of dugongs in Chinese coastal waters, according to  According to researchers, it may lead to the extinction of other species of marine mammals that are already endangered.

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