While Covid-19 is keeping humans at home, wildlife has started to thrive in places that they are rarely gifted the opportunity. In the latest example, a threatened marine mammal, the dugong, has been spotted in the shallow waters off the coast of a Thai Island.
Aerial drone images, captured by the Department of National Parks, shows more than 30 dugongs drifting through the popular island waters feeding on seagrass near Libong island in the Trang province.
While Thailand’s tourism industry has been severely hurt by the pandemic, it has allowed for wildlife to return to natural habitats due to less visitor foot traffic. Incidents such as sea turtles returning to popular beaches in masses have been common occurances during these trialing times.
Dugongs are cousins of manatees and share a similar appearance, but have a dolphin fluke-like tail. But unlike manatees, which use freshwater areas, the dugong is strictly a marine mammal. Commonly known as “sea cows,” dugongs graze peacefully on sea grasses in shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.
The dugong has some or complete legal protection throughout most of its range, but it is still hunted in some places and is threatened by habitat destruction, collision with boats, and accidental capture in fisheries targeting other species throughout most of its range. Populations are depleted in some places and regionally extinct in others, and scientists believe the dugong to be vulnerable to extinction. Without careful management of the human activities that threaten the dugong, it could be lost from more places.