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India’s 1st dugong conservation reserve to be in Tamil Nadu

Published: 13th Sep, 2021


The Tamil Nadu State government announced that a 500-sqkm dugong conservation reserve will soon be set up in the Palk Bay.


About India’s first dugong conservation reserve

  • The 500 sq.km of the biodiversity-rich waters in the Palk Bay on the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu is to become India's first dugong conservation reserve.
  • The reserve will span the northern part of the Palk Bay from Adiramapattinam to

What are Dugongs?

  • Dugongs are sea cows or sirenia. It is a species of sea cow.
    • These animals are called 'sirenias', since their mammary glands and nursing habits are similar to those of humans.
  • Location: They are found throughout the warm latitudes of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. In India, dugongs are seen in the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Palk Bay, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Conservation status:
    • Vulnerable- the IUCN Red List
    • Protected in India under Schedule I of the Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972
  • Diet: The dugong is herbivorous. It primarily grazes on sea grasses and therefore spends most of its time in seagrass beds.
  • Dugongs are an important part of the marine ecosystem and their depletion will have effects all the way up the food chain.

Threats for dugong

  • Hunting for meat and oil. 
  • By-catch: Dugongs are often incidentally caught in nets, targeting fish and sharks. This by-catch leads to a high number of mortality because of insufficient oxygen supply. 
  • Habitat disturbance in a form of water pollution, which leads to destruction of seagrass beds that are the main food source for these animals.
  • Human activities such as the
    • destruction and modification of habitat
    • pollution
    • rampant illegal fishing activities, vessel strikes
    • unsustainable hunting or poaching
    • unplanned tourism
  • Loss of seagrass beds due to ocean floor trawling.

Steps Taken for Conservation

  • The Government of India has been a signatory to the CMS since 1983.
  • India has signed non-legally binding Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with CMS on the conservation and management of-
    • Dugongs (2008)
    • Siberian Cranes (1998)
    • Marine Turtles (2007)
    • Raptors (2016)
  • In February 2020, India hosted the 13th Conference of Parties (CoP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Population number

According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the overall Dugong population is estimated to be about 85,000 animals, living in waters of northern Australia, from Shark Bay (Western Australia) to Moreton Bay (Queensland). 

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