Govt's moves help dugongs survive, breed

Atef Hanafi
Filed on June 1, 2006

ABU DHABI — Unlike the threatening conditions dugongs face in many other parts of the world, the endangered plant-eating mammals in the UAE are surviving and breeding due to the government's comprehensive protection programme.

Zohran Al Abdul Salam, Director of the Marine Environment Researches Centre in Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times that a special committee is being set up to coordinate and conduct detailed studies with companies, such as ‘Al Dar’, the Ministries of Environment and Water, and the army with the primary aim of preserving the dugong's marine habitat.

Addressing a conference on Protection of Dugongs in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean, on Monday, Salam said there were two dugong sanctuaries, one in Marawah, where 65 per cent of the animals are found and the other is in the Al Yasat area.

There is a Total-funded fully-integrated project for the protection of the dugong, which has been carrying on since 1999, he recalled. Under this project, he said, a comprehensive survey was conducted in the UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi, where the largest number of the animals are to be found.

A satellite-monitoring project is still under study in the UAE. At the moment, Australia is the only country implementing it, where there is a small population of 850. The UAE dugong population is higher but does not exceed 3,000.

There is good cooperation between the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for protecting these marine animals in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea region.

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