PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — A shoreline monitoring is set to be conducted here by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) to determine if there is a community of the critically-endangered sea cow, locally known as “dugong”, in Barangay Babuyan in this city.
Vivian Obligar-Soriano, the senior ecosystems management specialist of the CENRO, said this Monday morning following the discovery of another dead sea cow in Purok Baybay, Barangay Babuyan.
Measuring 2.3-meter long, the dead sea cow — this time an adult male — was found on Saturday at around 1p.m. by fisherman Brandon Tunga, who reported it to CENRO.
“This is the second time this year that a dead dugong was reported from the area that’s why we will be doing a monitoring in Babuyan to determine what is causing the deaths and if there is a population, how many are there?” Soriano said.
Upon examination of its carcass, Soriano said old and new scratches were observed. Signs of fisheries interaction, like scars resembling fishnets, were also noted but it was unclear if these were fresh or otherwise.
“There’s a large bruise of the dugong behind the pectoral fin, but maybe it got it due to a natural cause or maybe when it accidentally hit something in the sea,” she said.
Soriano said the necropsy conducted by Dr. Theresa Aquino of the Marine Wildlife Watch Philippines (MWWP) revealed fluids in the dugong’s chest cavity and its stomach was also full of undigested food.
She added no plastic or garbage was found inside its belly, which means its cause of death could not be determined.
“Plastics were not found in its stomach and findings hinted to the possibility of drowning,” she added.
Soriano added that Babuyan is rich in seagrass which the dugong loves to eat which presumably has caused an increase in sightings by locals lately.
She said if a population can be determined to frequent the area, the CENRO will move to ensure that more deaths are prevented.
“We will do the monitoring because we do not want dead sea cows to turn up from the area. It’s critically-endangered, which means its population needs protection,” she said.
In March this year, the carcass of a female adult “dugong” was found by a local fisherman on a sandbar in the same barangay. It weighed an estimated 400 kilograms and more nearly 10 feet in length. Celeste Anna Formoso/PNA-northboundasia.com