In China, the dugongs, the aquatic mammal species thought to have inspired mermaid stories, have all died out, researchers said.
According to the news of BBC Turkish Studies of people living off the coast of China have identified only three people who say they’ve seen dugong in the past five years.
‘The gentlest giant of the oceans’ The slow and relaxed demeanor of this animal species, which is also called deca, caused it to be hunted by humans and could not escape from ships. Dugongs are not extinct as they live in other countries besides China, but they are endangered in other regions as well.
Among the authors of the study, Prof. from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Samuel Turvey, “It is a great loss that there are no dugong left in China” said.
The last dugong recorded by a scientist in the country was seen in 2000, and since then, it was thought only as a result of public statements that the animal continued to live.
In a survey conducted by researchers with 788 people living in coastal areas, “When was the last time you saw a dugong?” The average response to the question was 23 years.
Heidi Ma, a postdoctoral fellow at ZSL, “This species can no longer accommodate itself in China” said.
China took it under protection in 1988.
What distinguishes the dugongs, which look like sea cows, is their whale-like tail. Because of its tail and affectionate demeanor, some believe this creature inspired mermaid stories.
In the first half of the 20th century, dugongs were hunted by those who wanted to exploit their meat, skin, and bones, and their population had dwindled. The Chinese State Council then granted dugongs the status of first-class protected animals in 1988.
But the destruction of the dugongs’ habitat and the rapid disappearance of the seagrass meadows they feed on has led to the collapse of the population. According to the UN Environment Programme, the world’s seagrass meadows are shrinking by 7 percent each year.
Industrial and agricultural pollution, coastal construction, illegal fishing and climate change are among the reasons for this. prof. According to Turvey, this development in China should act as an alarm for countries that host dugongs, such as Australia and East Africa.