Sunday, January 3, 2010
Who couldn't love this Disney-esque critter?
This landmark in town is probably the closest I’ll get to the dugong or sea cow that I was so hoping to see while I was here. The dugong is similar to a manatee and used to be plentiful along the coastlines of both the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand. The islands in Trang Province were a major dugong habitat. Today, dugongs are in process of going extinct.
They are huge, gentle, air-breathing mammals that survive on a certain type of sea grass. As coastlines have developed, the sea grass has disappeared—and so have the dugongs. Even where there is still grass, they cannot always survive injuries from boat collisions and other human-caused impacts.
They have a slow reproduction rate and maintain family associations throughout their long lifetimes—some 40-50 years according to experts. The best (and probably only) place to see them is the out-of-the-way Trang island of Libong where they still come to feed in the early mornings. Putting together a trip to go there could be challenging if not impossible. And there’s no guarantee of sightings. From all accounts, the dugong population is down to 40 or so animals. (Some say 70, but who really knows?)
Nor is this the only eco-tragedy to be found here. I brought my snorkeling gear in hopes of finding a good reef or two and studying the fish in this part of the world. But all I hear from those who have gone snorkeling in the same places I want to try is that the coral is dead or dying and fish are few. (Echoes of too many reefs in Maui…)
What are we humans doing to our planet? What will be left for future generations to learn from and enjoy?
Sad thoughts for a rainy Sunday…
Posted by KK at 10:42 PM