Today, there was a public talk at the Zoo, on marine mammals in Singapore and conservation of dugongs. Luckily for me, I had nothing on and could go for the talk (: No photos though, forgot to bring my camera.
First talk was by Dr Elizabeth Taylor from Tropical Marine Science Institute (NUS) about the Singapore Wild Marine Mammals Survey (SWiMMS). I attended a talk on SWiMMS before while at St John’s for an overnight camp, but it wasn’t given by her.
So we actually have quite a number of marine mammals in Singapore, though majority of Singaporeans would hardly get to see them. 4 Cetacean species — the Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin (aka pink dolphin), the Bottlenose dolphin (often found in oceanariums), Irrawaddy dolphin and the Finless porpoise — as well as 1 Sirenian species — the Dugong.
She talked about how to identify them and stuff, it’s quite cool. Have yet to spot any marine mammal though, but if anyone does, do report it!
After that Dr Helene Marsh from James Cook University gave a talk on the conservation of dugongs. Dugong belongs to the Order Sirenia, of which there are 4 species. She was saying that it is more worrying if higher taxa groups are lost (extinct) as compared to individual species, which makes sense. And certain taxonomic groups are more at risk as compared to others, especially when there are few species in that taxa, such as the Order Sirenia (among others).
Out of the 4 species of Sirenians, only the dugong is a strict marine vegetarian. The others — West Indian manatee, West African manatee and Amazonian manatee — either eat both aquatic (fresh water) and marine plants, or only aquatic plants. And their tails are also more paddle-shaped as compared to the dugong’s which is forked. So that makes the dugong a really special animal (:
Major threats to their survival are, like most other marine creatures, marine trash(nets that strangle and drown them), habitat loss and also hunting for meat. Apparently their meat is really delicious and good to eat, and indigenous communities have been consuming dugong meat for a long time.
So anyway, more effort is definitely needed to protect the dugongs, and probably more research done as well. Dugongs are cool (: