Endangered sea mammal slaughtered in Andamans
Neha Sinha Posted: Jan 02, 2009 at 0028 hrs IST
New Delhi: THE dugong, a massive sea mammal often mistaken by sailors as
the mythical mermaid, has most of its last viable populations in the
Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The population here too, of these slow
breeding, 13 feet long animals, is only 25-30. Now, there’s one less.
The long arm of poaching has not spared the pristine Andaman and Nicobar
Islands. A breeding female dugong, protected under Schedule One of the
Wildlife Protection Act, was hacked to death by poachers around
Christmas on Neil Island. The meat of the dugong may have been used as
fish bait and was chanced upon by scuba-divers in the area.
“Tourists in Neil island, part of the Andaman complex, woke up to the
sight of a mutilated carcass of the dugong on beach number 3 of Neil
islands. We found the carcass dripping with blood. We had spotted the
same animal with a calf on the beach so it is now unlikely the calf will
survive on its own. Its shocking that anti-social elements can operate
like this,” said Lucan, a scuba-diver in the area. The Chief Wildlife
warden of the area, Khajan Singh, has deputed a senior forest department
official to investigate the matter.
The number of dugongs, which exist only in areas with shallow waters,
mostly with coral reef formations, has dwindled enormously in the past
few years due to indiscriminate hunting. There is current evidence of
the dugong living in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Though they
existed in the Gulf of Kutch, there have not been any recent sightings
of the animal there. They are also found in the Great Reefs in Australia.
In 2008, the Cabinet approved India joining international efforts to
protect and manage dugongs. Dugongs are legally protected under Schedule
I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. They are listed in Appendix-I
of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES) and in Appendix II of the Convention of
Migratory Species (CMS) to both of which India is a signatory.