Sea cows under threat

 
Published: Friday 30 April 1993

-- (Credit: R S Lal Mohan) DUGONGS, a marine mammal that inspired the mermaid legends of ancient seafarers, may soon vanish from Indian waters if their large-scale slaughter is not stopped in Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. Sea cows, as they are also known, are believed to number a mere 100 now.

Despite the fact that sea cows (Dugong dugon) are protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, they are killed indiscriminately because their meat is considered a delicacy and is believed to cure piles and intestinal disorders. Poachers dupe the authorities by cutting up captured dugongs on the boat itself.

Another reason for depletion of sea-cow numbers is the damage caused by trawlers to the sea-grass beds where the mammals forage. And some sea cows die because they get entangled in gill-nets used by tuna fisherfolk.

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