Andaman is the island of adventures and rare species that will make you awestruck and wonder about the marvels of nature. One of the marvels of nature is cow which is sea and yet it is herbivorous known as Dugong. The dugong is the state animal of Andaman, also known as the sea cow, which can be found mainly in Little Andaman. It belongs to Dugongidae family and is the only species left but even this species survival is critical and declining o rapid rate due to poaching. It has a lifespan of 70 years and is popularly known as the Lady of the sea.
The dugong is found in waters of as many as 37 countries. It has been hunted for meat and oil for centuries which has led to decrease in their number. In India also, its meat is considered to be aphrodisiac and essential for oil. Currently, they are classified as vulnerable to extinction under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, as they are vulnerable to human activities due to their life history and dependence on seagrasses that are restricted to coastal habitats. Reasons for the waning population are habitat loss and squalor, gill netting, chemical pollutants, large-scale indigenous use and hunting.
The maximum population of Dugong is restricted to the Red Sea, followed by the Persian Gulf. Less than 200 dugongs are available and India is encouraging its neighbors in South Asia to sign the Dugong UNEP/CMS MOU as early as possible.
In Andaman and Nicobar islands, dugongs are mainly found along “Dugong Creek” in the Little Andaman Island. The research findings tell us that although few in number, you can have their glimpse in other parts such as the Ritchies archipelago in Neil Island and some parts of Havelock group of islands, South Andaman (along Tarmugli, Jolly buoy and Rutland islands), North and middle Andaman (along White-Cliff, Reef, Landfall islands and Mayabunder region), in Hutbay and along the central group of Nicobar Islands There are about fifty dugongs that live in the Andaman and Nicobar region but their survival is critical as the corals are declining and poaching is increasing.
Commercialization of Dugong is a threat to already endangered species of Dugong and The Forest Department and Nature Conservation Foundation in association with the Andaman and Nicobar Environment team is attempting to conserve these animals and create a natural habitat that will help them to reproduce and live peacefully. Identifying the habitats of the mysterious species and creating awareness amongst the local people like the fishermen, boat owners, and others to reduce poaching-related threats is the first step towards preserving these docile sea mammals.
To conclude, the state animal of Dugong is undoubtedly the rare water mammal found in India and abroad but the threat of extinction and commercialization of the dugong trade may lead to its extinction. So apart from government initiatives, even localities and tourists should spread awareness regarding this animal and help to create a natural environment for it to breed and live. Being the heritage of Andaman many divers visit the island in hope to see this sea animal and if you are amongst those then book your package now.