THE SEA COW
The Sea Cow Dugong dugon are peaceful and tranquil animals. They appear fat, but are in fact fusiform (being they have a wide middle and taper at either end). They are hydrodynamic, and highly muscular, reaching up to 3 meters in length and weighing up to 500 kg. They are exclusively bottom feeders, primarily feeding on sea-grass and aquatic vegetation which they uproot by digging furrows in the seafloor with their snouts. The species' preferred habitats include warm and shallow coastal waters, with healthy ecosystems that support large amounts of vegetation.
Dugongs are believed to be the most endangered large mammal on the African continent, and in East Africa, there is growing concern that they are in grave danger of local extinction unless immediate conservation measures are taken. Dugongs are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and classified globally as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ due to a population decline of at least 25% in the last 90 years (IUCN, 2000). Their habitat requirements and slow rate of reproduction render them particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic activities, and they are threatened by hunting, incidental net captures, pollution, coastal development and disease.
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