x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dugongs' movements in Gulf now tracked by satellites

Divers have tagged four rare 'sea cows' with satellite transmitters to keep track of the endangered mammals.

Emirates Environment Agency divers have tagged the gentle creatures to keep track of their movements.
Emirates Environment Agency divers have tagged the gentle creatures to keep track of their movements.

ABU DHABI// The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is tracking the movements of four dugongs in the Arabian Gulf after tagging them with satellite transmitters this month.

The tagging is part of a government effort to learn more about dugong migration in the Gulf, the state news agency Wam reported.

The rare marine mammals were tagged near the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve and Al Yasat Island.

So far, they have been foraging within 10 to 15 kilometres of the place at which they were released. They travel between 6.2km and 8.8km each day.

The agency wants to use the data for government policies to protect the species.

Dugongs are gentle creatures sometimes called sea cows. They grow to between two and three metres in length, weigh up to 400 kilograms and can live for up to 70 years.

They are protected by federal law, but coastal development, pollution, dredging and boat traffic have disturbed their habitat.

The agency has been working since 1999 to conserve and manage their environment.

The four dugongs were tagged at sites chosen for their proximity to the Qatari border, so scientists could share information to enhance regional cooperation to protect the animals.

The tagging was a collaboration with Australia's Charles Darwin University, a leading institution in research on the mammals, Wam reported.

The divers that tagged the dugongs also took small skin samples for DNA testing.

newsdesk@thenational.ae