Dallying with Johor’s Dugongs

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Johor is one of the few states that has a viable population of dugongs.

Dugongs (Dugong dugon) are marine mammals in the family Sirenia. They need to breathe oxygen just like any other mammal and feed on seagrass. Dugongs used to be common in Sungai Johor but are now rarely seen there.

Today there is a population of about 20-30 dugongs in the Sibu-Tinggi group of islands, where scientists from University Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaya have been studying them and their habitats since 2005.

In Iskandar Malaysia, dugongs can be found in the Sungai Pulai Estuary where Kelab Alami has been monitoring them since 2008. Research funding from the Johor Port Authority (JPA) allows Kelab Alami to conduct a study of dugong feeding trails and other species in this area so that they can work with the local authorities and JPA to protect them and their coastal habitats.
Dugongs can live up to 70 years and can grow to more than 3 meters.

Several dugongs have been found dead in Mukim Tg Kupang in the past, mostly young babies. Dugongs are threatened by loss of habitat and accidents with boats and fishing nets. Sometimes they are hunted for food or for symbols of luck (their tusks). Some believe that their tears can be made into love potions!

Kelab Alami conducts guided seagrass habitat tours where you can see the trails left behind by feeding dugongs and learn more about this enigmatic species.