Dugong which were been mistaken for mermaids is now being declared functionally extinct in Chinese waters. Habitat loss and fishing are said to be one of the causes of this.
Since the 1970s, there has been a rapid decline in the population of the “sea cows” which according to research by the Zoological Society of Londo (ZSL) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences said fishing and ship strikes were the major causes of the decline in the population of the giant marine creatures.
In fact, the teams of researchers found that there has been no evidence of their presence in China since the year 2008 making the Dugongs the first functional extinction of a large mammal in China’s coastal waters.
Dugongs often feed on seagrass and they have been classified as a Grade 1 National Key Protected Animal since the year 1998 by China’s State Council.
The report has it that their marine habitats have been rapidly degraded due to human activities and while recovery efforts were in place, the general consensus was that they are probably no longer in China waters.
Dugongs are found in coastal waters from East Africa to Vanuatu and as far north as Japan.
The Dugongs or Sea Cows are they are known elsewhere around the globe are known for their gentle characteristics and were listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Their appearance is thought to have inspired ancient stories of mermaids and sirens.
According to Professor Samuel Turvey of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, the likely disappearance of dugongs in China was a devastating loss.
“Their absence will not only have a knock-on effect on ecosystem function but also serves as a wake-up call – a sobering reminder that extinctions can occur before effective conservation actions are developed,” he said.
A team of international scientists conducted interviews in 66 fishing communities across four Chinese provinces along the coastal region of the South China Sea.
And the authors said they would in fact welcome any evidence of dugongs’ existence in China. They also recommended the species’ regional status be reassessed as Critically Endangered or possibly Extinct.