Last updated June 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm
Baby dugongs are back, baby!
There has not been a lot of good news about the Great Barrier Reef lately. You know what will cheer you up? This picture of a dugong:
You know what will cheer you up even more? Baby dugongs! And the good news is that there are more of them than last time we looked. Australia is home to most of the world’s dugongs, and the numbers around Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales have bounced back from previous surveys. No baby dugongs were seen in the 2011 survey, carried out after the destruction of cyclone Yasi. The most recent survey from James Cook University, conducted in October and November of 2016, estimated around 10% of the population are under 18 months old. The improvement is especially evident in the southern Great Barrier Reef region which showed a 5-fold increase of total dugong numbers on the 2011 population, due to natural increase and migration to the area.
Dugongs are listed as vulnerable to extinction worldwide, and in Australia the biggest threats to them come from getting caught in fishing nets and lines, being hit by boats, and loss of habitat. Dugongs munch their way through around 28-40kg of sea grass a day, so protecting seagrass habitats is essential to conserve these gentle giants. Researchers recommend one of the best ways we can do that is to continue the careful management of water quality in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Photo credits: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority