THE Philippines have thousands of species that are undeniably incredible, including the largest and only sea-living mammal which grazes on seagrass, the Dugong (Dugong dugon).
Presently, we have seen the number of dugong in the country slowly diminishing due to man-made and natural threats such as loss or degradation of sea grass habitatdue toactivities that cause water pollution, incidental capture in fishing gears, hunting, chemical pollution, climate change and more.
Thus, in order to spread the importance of conserving and protecting such important mammal, an Information Education and Communication (IEC) Campaign led by the Department of Envrironment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)-6 Culasi was conducted in Malabor Elementary School and La Paz Elementary School in Tibiao, Antique, just recently.
More than one hundred students from the said schools attended the campaign.Both schools were located at the coastal barangays of Tibiao.
Using a very effective IEC strategy called Dalaw-Turowith lectures, environmental skits and games, the students easily acquired more information about Dugong, their importance and the role of the youth in protecting the said mammal from extinction.
Dugong or “sea cow” has a very essential role in the coastal marine ecosystems. Their population status in a certain area can indicate the health of the ecosystem. Moreover, this mammal contributes to a productive coastal marine ecosystem by consuming their favorite food, sea grasses, which grow on the sea floor.
A Dugong can consume up to 50kg of sea grass in a day. According to study, sea grasses
regenerate more when they are eaten, thus, increases the level of productivity and nutrition of marine vegetation.
If Dugong will become extinct, there will be a possibility of poor marine ecosystem since sea grasses will no longer be trimmed constantly.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Natural Resourcesclassified Dugong under the status of vulnerable to extinction.
“I believe all of us share the same goal of preserving Dugongs, which we want the next generations to see how amazing this mammal is and the things it can do for our environment. We want our children to see them, not only in the books but also in their real habitat,” said DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Jim O. Sampulna.
“The Agency continues to campaign in saving and protecting such species by educating not only the youth but everyone because Dugongs are the first marine mammal to be protected in Philippine waters in accordance with DENR Administrative Order No. 55, Series of 1991,” added Director Sampulna
DENR AO No. 55, Series of 1991 also states that hunting, killing, wounding, taking, possessing, transporting and/or disposing of a Dugong, whether dead or alive, and its meat and any of its by-products is prohibited. (DENR-6)