Dugong, the lady of the seas and the state animal of Andaman and Nicobar islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Island better known as the beach island is one of the far-famed tourist destinations that comes under the union territory of India. The risky venture offered in the land and the availability of rare species makes this scenic destination one of the 10 must-visit tourist attractions in the world. The waters of Andaman are known to house the rarest of the rare marvels of nature, a sea cow which is herbivorous, the Dugong. The Dugong is the state animal of the Andaman and Nicobar islands which could be mostly found in the Little Andaman. Being the rarest species in the world, the animal has gained great laurels all around the world. Travellers, nature devotees and animal lovers tour to this scenic destination in large numbers to see this beauteous water animal. Different attractive Andaman Nicobar packages are organised to little Andaman by Andaman tour travels and a number of such travel operators allowing the tourist to explore the seas at the Little Andaman and get lucky enough to get a glimpse of this rare herbivorous sea cow. The animal Dugong found at the Andaman and Nicobar Island belongs to the Dugongidae family and is the only species that is left in the family. Now, this rare sea cow is under threat and is declining rapidly in numbers due to illegal hunting. This unique animal has a lifespan of a minimum of 70 years and is mostly referred to as the lady of the sea.
Dugong, the lady of the sea
A medium-sized sea mammal, the dugong is one of the four which belongs to the order Sirenia and the only living representative of the family Dugongidae. Similar to all modern sirenians, the Dugong has a perfect body for inhibition which is spindle-shaped with no hind limbs and dorsal fins while the forelimbs of this mammal are more similar to a paddle. A dugong could be differentiated very easily from the manatees as it has a dolphin-like tail and has a unique skull and teeth. The molar teeth of the animal are also peg-like like those for mammals. The waters of the Andaman and Nicobar island houses about 50- to 60 of this sea animals in number and their protection is the primary concern of the government officials in the land. In this beach, island dugong is mostly known as the sea cow or sea-pig as it is a mammal that lives in the waters and due to its body structure and shape. This mammal mostly uses their back for defence. As a part of their defence mechanism, the mammal shows their back to the one they are to attack with their strong flexible tail. In nature, the animal is not much aggressive. They neither attract small fishes nor get into fights with other aquatic animals. It is mostly due to this silent nature of the animal that travellers enjoy swimming with the mammal. Travellers visiting Andaman Island at the perfect season could even see the male dugong trying to impress the female by protecting the area from other dugongs in the waters.
Feeding, Reproduction and Birth Cycle
The dugongs are mostly referred as sea cow due to their feeding method. The sea-cow mostly eats sea grass and are said to have the whole plant including the root. If the plant seems big enough to digest them mostly depend on the leaves alone. With less sea-grass, they also depend on the water algae. Although the animal is herbivorous they also depend on spineless water animals like jellyfish, sea squirts, and shellfish for food.
The dugongs reach maturity at the age of 8 to 18, which is older than most of the other mammals. In the case of dugongs, the females give birth to a very few progeny during their life and can only reproduce a single baby at a time. The reproductive period of the mammal is mostly 13 to 15 months and the newborn babies are about 4ft long and are of 30 kg weight. After the birth, the babies stay close to their mother for another 14 to 18 months to be nurtured and to learn swimming. Within the duration of 14 to 18 months, the babies feed on the sea-grass. The mother is very protective towards their babies and protects it from the attack of other aquatic animals. It is during this period of growth that the mother dugong teaches the baby to hunt and to fight with their tail and how to get to the top of the sea to breath in oxygen. During the pregnancy period travellers are restricted in the area as they would be very vulnerable and even aggressive.
Dugong, on the verge of extinction
The lady of the sea, dugongs are silent and calm in nature it is mostly due to this nature that they are prone to attacks mostly from humans. People hunt this sea animal for met and oil, this method is followed for the last many years that the mammal now is under extinction. The dugong is now included under the vulnerable to the extinct category under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Apart from human attacks, pollution, fishing, gill netting and chemical and electronic waste also affect the life of the animal.
Efforts to protect dugongs in India
Dugongs are mostly found in the along “Dugong Creek” in the Little Andaman. According to the researchers and survey, there are only 50 of them left in the seas of Andaman. Travellers visiting the place to see the animal could get a small glimpse of the mammal in some parts of the Havelock islands, to the central group of Nicobar Islands, at Ritchie’s archipelago in Neil Island and to the South Andaman. The survival of the dugongs in Andaman is also at risk due to the decrease in corals and increase in illegal hunting. As an effort to increase the population of the mammals, the Andaman tourism department with the forest department and nature conservation foundation is spreading awareness and trying to set up a habitat where they could bread and live in peace. Travellers are restricted to this destination during the breading period of dugongs so as provide them proper habitat free from human interference.
The dugong is one of the rarest animals in the waters and the state animal of the Andaman and Nicobar Island should be protected with at most importance. Apart from the government officials even the travellers and tourist could also spread awareness regarding the protection of endangered species. Travellers and animal lovers who wish to enjoy a swim with this rare mammal could visit the Andaman and Nicobar islands during any month of the year apart from the mating time.