Malaysia: Dugong stranded near Sabah's coastal village, Wildlife Department to monitor situation

Awang Ali Omar New Straits Times 11 Aug 17;

SANDAKAN: An unexpected visitor in the form of a dugong greeted folks of a coastal village here, this morning.

Sim-Sim's residents alerted the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) upon discovering the marine mammal stranded in the shallow waters at 8.30am.

“Our department has received the report of the dugong, protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

“We have gone to the ground with our Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) to monitor the situation and have made early discussions with the Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s marine unit, the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI).

“The university said they will send researchers to collect data on the presence of dugong. So we will wait for them to come,” said Sandakan wildlife officer Hussein Muin, adding the animal is still stranded at Sim-Sim waters as of now.

He also expressed hope that the communities especially those at the coastal area in Sim-Sim, would cooperate and help with conservation efforts towards the species, and not disturb the mammal until marine experts arrive to carry out studies.

The university’s BMRI director Prof Dr Rossita Shapawi clarified that they have heard and seen information circulated on the dugong’s presence there a few days ago, but were only informed about it officially now.

“Stranding (of marine life in shallow waters or beaches) is normal for we have seen it with dolphins before, but when it comes to dugong, it is quite rare.

“One of our researchers assisted by students will go down there soon, likely on Monday to observe and collect data on the species,” she said, explaining that the conservation jurisdiction do not fall below them but the Wildlife Department.

Dugong stranded in Sim Sim water village in Sabah
MUGUNTAN VANAR The Star 11 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: The public has been told not to disturb a dugong stranded in the shallow waters of a water village in Sandakan.

A team of experts from the Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah are headed to the village while state wildlife rangers ensure the safety of the dugong, an endangered species, after it was spotted by residents of the Sim Sim water village in Sandakan on Sabah's east coast at about 8.30am Friday.

Sandakan wildlife officer Hussein Muin urged the people not to disturb the animal pending the arrival of marine experts from Kota Kinabalu.

He said the dugong is listed as a protected species under the Conservation of Wildlife Enactment 1997, which makes it an offence to harm it.

"I hope everyone helps our conservation efforts," he said.

He said the team is expected to study the mammal, also known as a sea cow.

Residents of Kg Sim Sim say dugong sightings in their area are rare, and believe that this could be the first time the mammal turned up in the village.

Dugong proves it isn’t camera shy at Kampung Sim Sim
Rebecca Chong Borneo Post 11 Aug 17;

SANDAKAN: A dugong has been spotted in waters surrounding Kampung Sim Sim here on Wednesday.

Sandakan Wildlife Department officer Hussein Muin said in a statement here today that the Wildlife Rescue Unit had visited the area to check on the dugong.

After discussing with Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s (UMS) Marine Faculty, it was decided that UMS will send researchers to collect more data on the protected species before further action could be taken.

Locals, especially the villagers of Kampung Sim Sim, have been urged to cooperate in the conservation effort of the dugong.

The marine mammal can still be seen hanging around the same area where it was first spotted.

The average dugong has a long lifespan of 70 years or more, and a slow rate of reproduction. They are herbivorous and feed mainly on sea-grass, but have been hunted close to extinction for their meat and oil.

They are protected here under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

Help for dugong trapped in shallow waters
The Star 12 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: State wildlife rangers are trying to rescue a dugong stranded in shallow waters off the east coast of Sandakan.

A team of experts from Borneo Marine Research Institute is heading to the spot, near the Sim Sim water village, to assist.

The dugong, an endangered species, was spotted by some villagers at about 8.30am yesterday.

At that time, it was unable to get to deep water.

An adult of the species can typically grow to 3m in length and weigh about 420kg.

Sandakan Wildlife officer Hussein Muin said no one should disturb the marine mammal, adding that it was best to let experts handle the situation.

The dugong is protected under the Conservation of Wildlife Enactment 1997 and anyone disturbing or harming it is committing an offence, he said.

He added that the experts would also be studying the mammal which is also called a “sea cow”.

Several residents at Kampung Sim Sim said this was the first time a dugong had turned up there and that they had never seen one until now.

Stranded Sandakan dugong joined by another; SWD monitoring situation
KRISTY INUS and BH New Straits Times 13 Aug 17;

SANDAKAN: With more people flocking to see the two stranded dugongs, Kampung Sim-Sim residents are now worried over the safety of the marine mammals.

They are afraid that some might have bad intentions or potentially harm the dugongs, which are listed as totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

It was reported that Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) first received a report that a dugong was spotted at the shallow waters of the coastal village on Friday morning.

This morning, SWD director Augustine Tuuga said two mammals were sighted there based on the latest report.

“Our village has become a hot spot in the past week since the (first) dugong's presence. This is probably the first time the marine mammal appeared here.

“However, this species only appears during high tide (and is not there all the time).

“We are worried there might be some irresponsible people who want to capture this animal,” said a 59-year-old villager who wanted to be known as Chu.

Augustine said wildlife officers were monitoring the situation as they wait for the research team from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to arrive and conduct their studies, scheduled tomorrow.

He said the department needed UMS help to assess the animals' condition before determining the next course of action.

He added that unless the dugongs are ill or injured, SWD plans to let them be, as they are not in immediate danger.

"(We will) let them (remain in the waters) there. But (we do) worry that people may harm them, or they are accidentally hit by passing boats," he said, adding that SWD has called on the public not to disturb the dugongs.

Meanwhile, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said normally, stranded marine wildlife such as dolphins are assisted back out to sea – unless the animals are injured, wherein they would be nursed back to health.

Masidi stressed that everyone needs to be proactive and not "pass the buck" when it comes to protecting the species.

Listed under Schedule 1 of the Enactment, dugongs are in the same totally protected category with Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards as well as green turtles and hawksbill turtles.

Dugong attracted to Sim Sim water village for food
RUBEN SARIO The Star 14 Aug 17;

KOTA KINABALU: A dugong stranded in shallow waters off Sandakan appears to be healthy and is attracted to the Sim Sim water village for food.

The adult animal was seen nibbling moss growing on the posts of the houses in the village.

Sabah Wildlife Department ranger Awang Basah who has been monitoring the dugong said the animal had been elusive and was occasionally spotted around the village over the past three days.

“It would come close to shore during the high tide and go out to sea when the low tide comes,” he said.

He said the Wildlife Department had been reminding villagers there against throwing any type of food to the dugong as this could harm the animal.

Awang said that although dugongs have been spotted in the Sulu Sea off Sandakan, it is unusual for one to come so close to shore.

Villagers first spotted the dugong at about 8.30am on Friday.

Since then, the Wildlife Department had dispatched its rangers to monitor the animal while awaiting the arrival of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Borneo Marine Research Institute experts.

The dugong is protected under the Conservation of Wildlife Enactment 1997.

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