A Dugong is a large marine mammal that can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They are relatives of manatees and can weigh up to 1,300 pounds. Dugongs are herbivores, meaning they eat mostly plants, and they use their sharp incisors to tear seaweed from rocks below the water’s surface.
Dugongs have a difficult time breeding in captivity, so there is still much to learn about their reproductive habits. What is known is that the mothers nurse their calves for two years, and the calves stay with their mothers for about four years.
Dugongs are listed as a “vulnerable” species by the IUCN because of hunting, accidental catches in fishing gear, and habitat loss. However, they are not currently considered to be at risk of extinction.
Despite their vulnerability, dugongs are gentle giants that provide an important service to the marine ecosystem. They help keep seaweed populations in check, which in turn helps to maintain the health of coral reefs. Dugongs are also tourist attractions, and people who see them in the wild often describe them as being “magical” creatures.