A herd of more than 30 dugongs has reportedly been spotted drifting off the coast of a Thai island as of April 22 according to images released by National Marine Park Operation Center. The rare sightings prove that despite the tourism industry in shackles due to the coronavirus lockdown, Thailand has managed to revive its wildlife along the shores and waterways. Due to the slump in human foot traffic on the coasts, the dugongs were seen relaxing beneath turquoise waters on the coast of southern Libong island, confirmed media reports.
According to reports, Thailand has never been a safe haven for species like dugongs to survive. The slow-moving sea creatures, which are related to the manatee, are classified as a vulnerable species as it’s ancestors Steller's sea cow, was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The sea mammals have the broad whale-like tail and flippers which they use to make motions inside of the deep waters. The creatures have never be seen in large numbers owing to the excessive pollution and plastic waste on the coasts of Thailand, and water pollution from the tourism boats.
The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has disclosed that during the time of #COVID19, the marine environment in #Thailand has started to recover, because the beaches and coasts are cleaner, such as the popular tourist seas in #Phuket and #PhangNga provinces.#StayAtHome pic.twitter.com/Yivia1gPGR— PR Thai Government (@prdthailand) April 22, 2020
Last year, in southern Thailand, an orphaned infant dugong was reportedly discovered stranded on the beach who died despite the conservatives’ efforts to save the vulnerable creature. The cause of its death was later found to be plastic waste material lining the stomach which prompted debates about the waste management near the sea, according to media reports.
Manatees and dugongs are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. Habitat loss and human activities like boating and fishing are their biggest threats, but respecting speed zones and properly discarding fishing gear can help ensure survival. (📷 Fabrice Dudenhofer/#CoralReef Image Bank) pic.twitter.com/Zvrlt0ZM3N— The Ocean Agency (@Ocean_Agency) April 21, 2020
Marine scientist, Thon Thamrongnawasawat told a news agency, “It’s quite unusual. This species of mammal is very sensitive to speed boats and people. When they are gone, they feel free to gather in a large group and come close to shore.” Thon added that there were also reports of large schools of sharks coming unusually close to shore in several places in southern Thailand this past week, and a sighting of a pod of false killer whales.