Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Why we need to save dugongs

The UAE’s initiative to safeguard these sea creatures across the globe will benefit us all
Dugong in New Caledonia. Photo Courtesy: Matthieu Juncker / Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Dugong in New Caledonia. Photo Courtesy: Matthieu Juncker / Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

The participation of the international community is vital when it comes to saving endangered species from extinction and protecting the environment generally. This is why the UAE’s efforts to protect the dugong not just in local waters but also in communities across the globe deserves to be applauded.

As The National reported yesterday, a Dh21.3 million grant from the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund will support eight projects in countries across the Indian and the Pacific oceans, including Indonesia, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Vanuatu. These programmes will maintain seagrass ecosystems – the dugong’s main source of food – and keep the water healthy for the species.

One reason that the dugong is an important part of the marine environment, both here and internationally, is the success of the species acts as a bellwether for the overall ecosystem. As the conservation fund’s managing director, Razana Al Mubarak, explained, a healthy marine environment has many benefits for local communities because it ensures plentiful seafood, sustains clean seawater and safeguards coasts from storm erosion.

Apart from those benefits, the projects supported by the conservation fund also have strong educational components. By involving institutions such as Zayed University and 16 international universities, more students will be aware of environmental factors and why they are important. Students from 12 countries have already submitted proposals for social media awareness and public relations campaigns. Ten of these will be supported by the fund, along with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project.

This kind of cooperation between communities is needed to ensure everyone plays their part in protecting the environment. Lack of awareness of marine ecosystems can lead many of us to continue harmful practices and to undervalue our coastal ecosystems, to the detriment of not just dugong populations but to all of us.

Updated: May 23, 2016 04:00 AM

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