The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is sending a technical team early next week to investigate the reported death of a dugong (Dugong dugon) in Busuanga, Palawan.
This, even as PAWB Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim today reiterates her call on the public to report immediately to the nearest local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) any sighting or stranding of dugong or any other marine wildlife for proper investigation and rescue.
Lim made the call in the wake of a report that a 2.6-meter male dugong was found dead in a seaweed farm in Busuanga last December 6.
Citing a report by the non-government organization, Community Centred Conservation (C3) Philippines, Lim said the sea mammal had drowned after getting tangled up in a rope in waters about seven meters deep.
“The dugong, just like the dolphin and whale, needs to surface for air periodically,” Lim stressed.
She said the PAWB team will be coordinating with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to discuss measures on how such incident can be prevented like developing early warning system, protocol on rescue and release of trapped dugong and other marine animals in fish cages and seaweed farms.
The PAWB also indicated the need to enhance public information efforts to educate local residents.
The London-based C3, which has been working to conserve dugongs in its project site in Busuanga, reported that the entangled dugong was discovered by two young fishermen Samson Ayso and Edwin Gadiano, Jr while they were on their way to go fishing in Sitio Minit in Brgy. Cheey. The two immediately reported the incident to the barangay fisheries and aquatic resources management council chairman Clemente Abaño, who in turn, reported it to the C3 Philippines field office.
C3 program officers Danica Lopez and Archie Espinosa rushed to the area to secure data and, together with Abaño and some barangay officials, retrieved and buried the dead marine mammal to prevent the residents from eating the meat.
It was believed the dugong had been dead for more than 24 hours before it was discovered.
As herbivores, dugongs (also known as duyong) mainly feed on seagrass and maintain the ecological health of seagrass beds as food and habitat for other marine animals such as pawikan (sea turtles) and smaller fishes. However, they are being slaughtered for their meat, oil, skin and bones.
The seaweed farm, where the dead dugong was discovered, is a known sighting area for the sea mammal. It was the second time this year that a dugong was found dead in Palawan, which is regarded as the animal's final stronghold in the country. Earlier this year, another adult dugong was discovered dead off Coron Island.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's main authority on the conservation of biological species, lists dugong as threatened and vulnerable to extinction.
In the Philippines, dugong is classified as "critically endangered" and one of the species covered by Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.
The law strictly prohibits the killing, hunting, trading, transporting or possession of threatened species and their by-products or derivatives. It imposes the penalty of imprisonment from six to 12 years, or a fine from P100,000 to P1 million. #