What is Dugong? Facts about Dugong

What is Dugong? Facts about Dugong

Dugongs are cousins of manatees and share a similar plump appearance, but have a dolphin fluke-like tail. And unlike manatees, which use freshwater areas, the dugong is strictly a marine mammal. Commonly known as "sea cows," dugongs graze peacefully on sea grasses in shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.

Dugongs range in length from about 2.2 to 3.4 metres (7 to 11 feet) and weigh 230 to 420 kg (500 to 925 pounds). As with whales and dolphins, the dugong has a tapered body that ends in a deeply notched tail, or fluke. The forelimbs are rounded flippers lacking nails; there are no hind limbs nor any discernible neck. The snout is broad and bristled. The thick bristles (vibrissae) function as sensory hairs and are important for detecting, discriminating, and manipulating food.


Dugongs do not have any natural predators due to their large size. But, juveniles are at threat from coastal sharks, killer whales (orcas), and other large predators like saltwater crocodiles. It is protected throughout its range, but there are still incidents in which these creatures are killed or accidentally captured.

The dugong population is dwindling throughout the world and is extinct in some parts. This is due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and more. They are believed, as a species, to be vulnerable to extinction. The species has been hunted for centuries for its meat, oil, and more. The dugong regularly gets trapped in fishing nets and shark nets, causing disruption, injury, and sometimes death.

With a variety of threats to the dugong, conservation efforts are vital to its survival. It is estimated that around 95% of adult dugong must avoid being killed for at least a year for the overall population to be stabilized. Unfortunately, this requirement is not being met sufficiently and the dugong numbers are dwindling. Currently, the IUCN Red List has the marine mammal as a vulnerable species.

As part of a conservation effort, most dugongs are located in marine parks where fishers have to make sure they travel slowly in their boats and using nets to fish is restricted.

The Steller’s sea cow, the only other species belonging to the Dugongidae family, was hunted to extinction in the 1700s.


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