India: Management plan to protect, recover dugong

Ramanathapuram The Hindu 27 Jun 17;

To be implemented jointly with Forest department and NGOs

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which was implementing dugong recovery project in Gulf of Mannar, would make ready the management plan to protect the endangered species in the Gulf of Mannar in three months, K. Sivakumar, head and scientist, WII, said.

Addressing the first stakeholders’ consultation workshop here on Tuesday, he said the management plan of Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park and Biosphere Reserve would be implemented jointly with Tamil Nadu Forest department and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The WII would make ready the management plan to protect and recover dugong, the endangered marine mammal, protected under schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 in the Gulf of Mannar region, he said.

As part of the recovery programme, WII proposed to protect and recover dugong in the Gulf of Mannar region and other endangered species such as Gangetic Dolphin in the Ganges and the Bramaputra and Great Indian Bustard in the western region.

“For the first time we have introduced incentive programme for fishermen who saved dugong if they were caught in their fishing nets,” he said.

Thanks to the awareness campaign launched by the Forest department under the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening project, fishermen in the region had released and saved dugong entangled in the fishing nets, he said.

The WII honoured the fishermen with cash award and merit certificates at the workshop, he added.

In a bid to sensitise the children of fishermen in the coastal areas to the project, the WII proposed to conduct competitive examinations on dugong and biosphere in the Gulf of Mannar next month and award ‘dugong scholarships’ for 50 children, he said.

The scholarship would be paid for two years and each selected child would be given monthly scholarship of ₹500, Mr Sivakumar said. “Next year, we will extend the scholarship programme to cover 50 more children,” he said adding the examinations would be open to class IX and XI students.

The dugong scholarship and fishermen incentive programmes had been designed to motivate the fisher folk in protecting and saving the endangered species, he said. The dugong recovery project would be implemented for five years in the first phase, he said. The workshop was attended among others by Deepak S Bilgi, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, and scientists from various research institutions.