Thailand: Dept backs stand on dugong hunt

Bangkok Post 24 Oct 17;

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) yesterday insisted it did not fabricate evidence of dugong hunting in Trang, as claimed by wildlife advocacy groups.

Department director-general Thanya Nethithammakul yesterday said the agency had nothing to gain from framing villagers for dugong hunting, as its duty was to preserve the seacow-like mammal.

Mr Thanya also asked wildlife activists not to point the finger at anybody for the drop in dugong numbers, but instead cooperate with officials to conserve the species and improve the fertility of seagrass habitats.

The DNP chief's comment came after a Trang artisanal fishery network disputed a report released by Mr Thanya last week on the drop in the mammal's population in the province.

The report claimed dugong populations are being threatened by a loss of fertility in the seagrass habitat and disturbance due to fishing gear and hunting.

Currently, less than 200 dugongs live in Thai waters, of which around 130-150 are found along the coastline of Koh Libong in Trang's Kantang district.

A department source also said the island was a black market where the sale of dugong fangs and bones could fetch up to 10,000 baht per kilogramme while the mammal's meat could fetch 150 baht per kilogramme.

The source claimed to have posed as a customer to buy meat believed to belong to dugong. The meat was sent to a Phuket-based marine biological centre which later confirmed it was real dugong meat.

Following these claims, fishery network chief Aren Prakong criticised the report, insisting villagers on Koh Libong have been taking part in the preservation of dugong for the past three decades.

He said they were disheartened by Mr Thanya's accusation.

Mr Thanya said he or his deputy Pinsak Suraswadi would visit Trang to discuss the issue with residents and wildlife networks tomorrow to build understanding among villagers.

He also asked villagers who have information about dugong hunting to cooperate with the agency.

Dugong remains ‘prove hunters are active on Koh Libong
The Nation 24 Oct 17;

RANGERS IN A no-hunting area have filed a complaint regarding illegal hunting with police after a dugong’s skin and intestines were found hanging in a mangrove tree on Sunday in Pak Klong To Khun on Koh Libong in Trang province.

However, nearby villagers said the find was a “set-up” by the officers. National Parks chief Thanya Netithammakul last week claimed that dugongs were being hunted and killed for their meat, tusks and bones.

Thanya also claimed that the meat was available on Koh Libong, upsetting a network of conservation groups and local fishermen in Trang province.

The area’s chief, Chaipreuk Weerawong, said the officers were deployed to protect dugongs and unexpectedly found the carcass. They contacted police in the hope that the hunters could be found and arrested.

Chaipreuk said the carcass find was proof that dugong hunting existed in the area, as the parks chief had claimed.

Chaipreuk said the fact that the head, flesh and bones of the dugong had disappeared suggested that the mammals were being consumed.

Since this proof had emerged, the villagers should now believe that dugongs were being hunted and should cooperate with officers to protect the animals.

Chaipreuk said hunting was rampant in the area around 30 years ago, but it had largely disappeared when a wildlife conservation law was put in place in 1992. It re-emerged about six years ago, and he had noticed it since he took office around that time.

He noted that the number of officers in his area of responsibility was about 50 but this was not enough to protect the non-hunting zone of around 300,000 rai (48,000 hectares).

However, villagers said the discovery of the carcass was a set-up, because real hunters would not have left any skin or intestines.

They said the dugong’s remains were being used to help substantiate claims made by the parks chief.