Thailand: Conference discusses bid to save dugongs from extinction

The Nation 16 Oct 17;

A national convention on dugongs and seagrass preservation was held on Monday to find the solution to save dugongs from extinction.

National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department director-general Thanya Netithammakun headed the conference, which included representatives from the relevant agencies such as the Marine and Coastal Resources Department and the faculties of fisheries from various universities.

Thanya pointed out that the changing environment and climate change had severely affected the dugong population worldwide.

There was a strong need for all officers to understand the situation and work together to save dugongs, their habitat and their main food source – sea grass fields.

Therefore, he stressed that the outcome of this convention was crucial for dugong conservation in Thailand, where the population of this rare marine mammal was shrinking at a concerning rate.

It is believed that there are only about 200 dugongs left in Thai waters, and around 150 of these are in Had Chao Mai marine national park in Trang, where the seagrass field is well preserved and abundant.

Dept aims for dugong preservation
Bangkok Post 17 Oct 17;

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation plans to strengthen measures for preserving and conserving the dugong population with the local community's participation, saying the plan also includes increasing seagrass habitat which is the main food source for the seacow-like mammal.

Thanya Nethithammakul, chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said dugong populations are being threatened by a loss of fertility in the seagrass habitat, and disturbance due to fishing gear and man-made hunting. The department needs to develop more effective measures to limit the losses and increase their population, he said.

Many seagrass habitats were now being destroyed as some locals collect tiny and colourful fish found near seagrass sites. It is a challenging issue to figure out how to manage this problem as the location of some dugong habitats are not under the department's jurisdiction.

He stressed that cooperation from all stakeholders is important for the mammal's conservation and protection in the long run, adding the department will put more focus on local participation and is ready to stop or suspend any project if there is opposition from locals.

He referred to a controversial case against national park authorities regarding a plan to attach tags to dugongs to monitor their travels. Locals had said the project would pose a threat to the rare species as the long-tailed tag or cord might get tangled with fishing gear and cause their death. The project has been suspended by the department.

Songtham Suksawang, director of the National Park Office, said the department plans to increase the dugong population by improving the fertility of seagrass habitats, adding there is evidence of dugong populations having been found in many marine national parks in Chumphon, Phangnga and Phuket decades ago, but none or very few of them are seen now.

"If we can improve the quality of seagrass or make it fertile again, we believe the dugongs will come back to these places and their population will expand to new places, not only the main spot around Libong island in Trang province," he said.

Authorities to designate protected areas for dugongs in Thailand
Pattaya Mail 17 Oct 17;

Bangkok – The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) is to conduct a seagrass and sea-cow survey to designate protected areas, following a rapid decline in the number of the marine animals.

DNP Director-General Thanya Netithammakul has reported to relevant agencies that while not yet critical, sea-cows in Thailand continue to be threatened by human activity. The mammal is hunted by groups who believe its bones can be brewed as elixirs and its teeth can be used as amulets.

The DNP is to conduct a three-month survey on the remaining population of sea-cows between Dec 2017 and Feb 2018 and has instructed authorities of Hat Chao Mai National Park to suppress sea-cow hunting.

Sea-cows are at the top of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list, which prohibits the trading of wild sea-cows except for authorized research due to their endangered status. It is currently estimated that there are only 200 sea-cows still in Thai waters.