A dugong was found dead, floating on its back by a group of researchers from Palawan State University in the City of Puerto Princesa, Palawan on August 4, 2012. It took six people to lift the carcass of the 2.29 meter mammal which can weigh about 200 kilograms.
On August 4, 2012, a group of researchers from the College of Sciences of Palawan State University embarked on an exploratory field trip towards Iwahig and Sta. Lucia rivers located west of Puerto Princesa Bay. The coastal region of the bay is characterized by lush growth of mangroves especially in the portion bounded by the two rivers.
After about 20 minutes of travel towards Iwahig River, they noticed something floating above the waters. It looked like a log from afar but upon closer look, the group realized that it was a sea cow (Dugong dugon), or a marine mammal locally called a dugong. It was dead, floating on its back, with a vine tied at the juncture of the fork and the caudal peduncle.
No obvious sign of traumatic injury could be seen while inspecting the dugong’s body. It is possible that the dugong may have been entangled somewhere and that somebody tied it with a vine taken from the nearby mangrove forest and tried to tow it home.
Fig. 1. A female dugong next to the boat’s outrigger bobs in and out of the water.
It was a heavy load, as the group composed of three men on board the boat and a fisher who happened to pass by, tried hard to lift the dugong out of the waters. They literally rolled the animal onto the boat and fixed it with ropes at the bow.
Dugongs are known to reach 3 meters long and weigh 400 kilograms. This one is 2.29 meters long. By ratio and proportion, it should weigh between 300 to 400 kilograms.
Based on the description of the Dolphin Research Center in Florida, the dugong is a female. Female dugongs have genitals located just above the anus while males have genitals near the navel, but away from the anus.
The team contacted local government authorities on how to go about the dead marine mammal. They learned that the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) takes charge of cases like this. The agency has a place designated for burial of marine animals, about 6 kilometers from the spot where the group saw the dead dugong.
The group brought the dugong to the DA-BFAR office in Sta. Lucia and turned over the body to the staff members stationed there. Initially, four men lifted the carcass but they had difficulty walking on the stony coral. Two more men came over and helped transport the heavy dugong for burial in the designated burial site.
Dugongs are categorized under the vulnerable category in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.
©2012 August 12 Patrick A. Regoniel