Exhaustive surveys revealed that nobody has seen a dugong in Chinese waters since 2008.
According to research conducted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), dugongs are now practically extinct in China as there have been no sightings of the adored “sea cow” grazers since 2008. These gentle giants, whose numbers fell after the 1970s, are apparently losing the war against these dangers quickly. They are vulnerable to fishing, ship strikes, and habitat destruction in the area.
In a study submitted to the Royal Society Open Science, researchers who conducted in-depth interviews with fishermen in four southern maritime regions of China proclaimed the functional extinction of the dugong (Dugong dugon). The intention was to use residents’ tales of seeing dugongs in the wild as proof that they were still alive in the area, however the results were disappointing and produced no recent sightings.
According to Heidi Ma, Postdoctoral Researcher at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, “Through interview surveys, we acquired significant information that was previously unavailable for developing evidence-based evaluations of the status of dugongs in the region.”
This not only highlights the value of ecological knowledge for comprehending the state of species, but it also enables us to engage local populations and look into potential causes of wildlife decline and viable mitigating measures.
Researchers reached out to 66 towns in four provinces, from Hainan to Guangxi, Guangdong, and Fujian, but they were unable to locate any recent dugong evidence anywhere in the once-home waters of China. As a result, they contend that dugongs should have their status changed to Critically Endangered because they are now practically extinct in the area (Possibly Extinct).
According to co-author Professor Samuel Turvey, “the probable extinction of the dugong in China is a sad loss.” It will also serve as a wake-up call, a sad warning that extinctions can happen before adequate conservation measures are developed. Their disappearance will not only have an impact on ecosystem function.
Dugongs have undoubtedly left a lasting mark on history, both as the adorable sea creatures they are and in mythology.
Reports of mermaids and sirens, mythological beings with human-like features who have historically been held responsible for “luring” sailors into perilous seas, date back to Christopher Columbus. Nevertheless, it appears more plausible that these sailors were crushing on manatees, Steller’s sea cows, or doughy dugongs (all of which are now extinct), as these creatures may have seductively sprung out of the water while doing a “tail stand.”
The authors of the paper are hope to be proven right, despite the fact that the announcement of their alleged extinction in China is a devastating blow. Although their thorough investigations may not have revealed anything encouraging for the species’ survival, they declare that they would “welcome any conceivable future evidence” that the dugong still exists in China.