A dugong’s letter to the world
To the humans of this planet,
Hello earthlings. I am Mira, a young female of one of the warm-blooded mammals of the sea known as dugongs. I live in the shallows of the Philippine Sea. The manatees, who are our dear cousins, share the same lifestyle and story.
My kind is known as sea cows because we graze on sea grass in the shallows of warm coastal waters, just as the land animals, which humans call cows, graze on land grass. We are herbivores. We are completely aquatic and can live in both salt water and fresh water. There are still some dugong families that have still been grazing in the waters of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Pacific Ocean, southeast coast of Africa, western coast ofMadagascar,Papua New-Guinea, Thailand, Indonesia, Shark Bay, south of the Australian waters, north of Japan, and the Philippine Sea, but sadly, only in a few numbers.
Us dugongs and our relatives have two stubby flipper-like front legs used for both for swimming and for “walking” on the bottom of the shallows when grazing, a powerful tail, and no hind legs at all. We have thick skin that is almost hairless, blubber to keep ourselves warm, and a few bristles around our snout to help find and identify food. We move gracefully but not so fast for we can only travel at the maximum speed of 10 km per hour. Dugongs can grow up to 15 feet long and weight up to 1600 kilograms. The males grow tusks. Since we are mammals, we come up to the surface for a breathe of air every fifteen minutes when our lungs are fully inflated. Dugongs multiply very slowly because the females can only give birth to one calf after 13 months of pregnancy and can only have another calf after 3 years. The calves start munching of solid food at 4 months old. It takes 10 long years for a female dugong to become a mother. A dugongs life span is very close to the human life span. We live up to 70 years of age.
When our kind was first sighted by humans (European sailors) more than 400 years ago they were thought to be the legendary mermaids of the sea, half human and half fish, when we were just mothers floating on their backs with their calf cradled between their flippers to suckle. That was the beginning of the sea cow slaughter. All around the world we were being hunted mainly for out meat, skin, oil, blubber, and the tusks of the adult males. In some places, Indonesia, we were for our tears which were made to made into good-luck charms. We are easy to catch because we can be found in the shallows and can dive no deeper than 24 feet. I still remember the horrifying true stories my mother told me when I was younger as a warning. There are already reserves for dugongs and other endangered species but more are needed. Though there are already human laws that forbid sea cow hunting, there are some that illegally kill us for their greed of money because we fetch a high price. Already, a bigger relative of ours, the Steller’s sea cow, were killed to their extinction within the 30 years since they were first seen by humaneyes. They used to be found in the artic waters around the Bering Sea, Alaska, over 200 years ago. They were a lot more bigger than dugongs.They could grow up to 25 feet long, 22 feet around, and they weighed up to 8800 pounds.
Even if most of our deaths are caused by intensional murders, other doings that humans do destroy us. Simply throwing something like plastic or metal into the sea may be the cause ofthe death of a dugong because that dugong swallowed what you threw and choked. A simple fishnet left in the sea may be tangled around a dugong who wouldn’t be able to move his flippers and drown because he wasn’t able to come up to the surface for air. Simple joy ride on a motor boat may be the cause of the severe cuts on the side of a dugong. To some humans, simply getting rid of their trash by throwing it into river won’t do anything really very bad, but I tell you it will because a river will always find its way to the sea and then…? See? Simple things that you humans do causes death and injury to us dugongs. Other things that humans do that also hurt us are big like oil spills, dynamite fishing, development of more buildings and factories
near the shore.
Our kind used to swim freely in herd of thousands in the oceans and seas once upon a time, but now… we live in a life of nightmares and danger zones. I ask you, how would it feel to be a child whose mother was slaughtered? or a mother whose child was killed? Very painful. We dugongs have feelings just like many other animals and we can’t endure the pain of losing a love one any longer.
I tell these facts and history on the behalf of the less than a couple of thousand dugongs left in the world. Humans are the cause of adding our specie to the “endangered list” and it’s up to the humans still to save us. I only hope to live to see dugongs swim in herds of thousands again.
Hoping for a great change,
please help mother nature! we all need each other to survive 😀