Endearing but endangered: dugongs in the Philippines | Global Ideas | DW | 21.04.2015
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Endearing but endangered: dugongs in the Philippines

Dugongs once grazed in their thousands on the seabed off the Philippines. Today, they can only survive in specially designated areas, where they are guaranteed food and protection from propellers and fishing nets.

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Project aim: the creation of protected areas, both off the Island of Busuanga (by the NGO C3), and off Palawan (by the NGO Rare)
Project size: with its staff of five, C3, monitors the condition of seagrass meadows and the occurrence of sea cows. The team, which is supported by 40 volunteers, also leads public awareness campaigns. Rare also relies on volunteers to ensure fishing bans are enforced and close-mesh nets are not used.
Project volume: C3 receives an annual total of 25,000 euros ($26,7041) from foundations in Hong Kong, Japan and Belgium, and the Philippine authorities for nature conservation. The maritime protection zone off Caramay/Palawan (Rare) was set up using money from the US, Germany and the UN.

See cows, or dugongs, eat up to 25 kilos of seagrass every day. When they have had their fill, they like to bob up and down in the surface waters. But that is not without danger, because it puts them at risk from propellers, which sometimes cut their backs, or fishing nets, in which they become entangled and unable to come up for air. Baby dugongs are at particular risk. Sea cows the world over are endangered, but have almost entirely vanished from waters off the Philippines. The good news is that politicians are now alive to the problem, and local populations, who perceive the animals to be part of their culture, back the idea of greater protection. NGOs such as C3 or Rare are met with understanding when they set out to create protected areas. The introduction of a large no fishing zone above the seagrass meadows, as well as prescribed routes for boats could help prevent the extinction of these gentle marine creatures.

A film by Kerstin Schweizer

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