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Experts to discuss 'save dugong' plan

Ahemd Abdulaziz
Filed on May 29, 2006

ABU DHABI Dugong experts from around the globe will gather in Abu Dhabi this week to discuss the latest research and conservation efforts being carried out for protecting this endangered marine mammal.

A symposium on "Status and conservation of dugongs of the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean" is being organised by the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD), which has been undertaking studies on dugongs in the UAE since 1999. Funded by Total, these studies have allowed the UAE to play a leading role in the conservation of dugongs, which are fully protected under UAE federal Law.

The symposium will be held from May 29 to 31 at the Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers, and one of its key aims is to come up with strategies that will help maintain a stable and healthy dugong population in the region.

On the inaugural day, three world renowned dugong experts will address the symposium.

Dr Anthony Preen, who has undertaken extensive research on the region's dugongs since 1989, will make a presentation on the status of dugongs in the region; Prof Helene Marsh, Professor of Environmental Science at Australia's James Cook University, will make a presentation on the Biology and Conservation of Dugongs; and Dr John Reynolds, Co-Chairman of the Sirenia Specialist Group with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), will have his presentation on regional and international cooperation in dugong conservation.

The second day will witness the presentation of several country reports on the latest status of the dugongs.

The symposium will conclude with the announcement of the Abu Dhabi Declaration on Conservation and Management of Dugongs in the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean Region.

Part of EAD's research on dugongs involves investigation of threats to dugong population and its causes. Dugong is an endangered marine mammal measuring 2 to 4 metres' long and weighing up to 400kg. More than 7,000 dugongs live in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea the largest dugong population outside Australia. Around 40 per cent of this population inhabits the Abu Dhabi waters.

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