UAE: Abandoned dugong calf transferred to new home after years of rehabilitation

He remains under human supervision since he lacks the natural survival instinct others of his species develop in the wild


Ashwani Kumar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Photo: WAM
Photo: WAM

Published: Tue 26 Sep 2023, 1:43 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Sep 2023, 5:59 PM

A five-year-old dugong calf, rescued way back in 2019, has been safely transferred to the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre after receiving years of care, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) said.

Specialised marine species team from the EAD, supported by experts from the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Regional Office and Worldwide Zoo Consultants (WZC), successfully rescued and rehabilitated a dugong calf named Malquot found abandoned in Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve in poor health.

“Ever since Malquot was rescued in collaboration with our partners, we have always ensured that he is well taken care of at all times. He has been assigned a dedicated team of scientists who have monitored his progress as he returned to good health. He will provide veterinarians, animal nutrition specialists, and animal care specialists the opportunity to better learn the needs and behaviours of such an enigmatic species,” Ahmed Al Hashmi, executive director of the terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector at EAD, said.

Photo: WAM
Photo: WAM

After years of care by the dedicated team, Malquot has now been transferred to rescue facilities at the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre – where he can continue his life under human supervision. This is because he lacks the natural survival instinct acquired in the early stages of a dugong’s life. As Malquot has been reared in a controlled environment, he has not developed normal immunity and has adapted to receiving specialist human care, which hinders his ability to interact with other species and avoid predators.

According to information from an MoU by the Secretariat of the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and previous attempts made around the world, no dugong to date successfully rehabilitated in captivity has been released back into its natural environment. Therefore, EAD and its partners are working to continuously monitor the condition of Malquot to ensure that he receives the best possible care.

The EAD, through its team of experts, will be overseeing Malquot’s progress at the Yas SeaWorld Research & Rescue Centre, and closely following up on health checks, behaviour, and his overall acclimatisation to his new home at SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

“As there have been very few successful dugong rehabilitations around the world, Malquot will give both resident and visiting scientists the opportunity to study how he interacts with his environment and how he develops as he grows and reaches maturity. The incredible work that has been done during Malqout’s critical early rescue and rehabilitation period has set him up to settle in well at the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre in Abu Dhabi,” Al Hashmi noted.

SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi will provide a dedicated team of animal care specialists that will attend to his every need and the EAD team of marine animal specialists will be on call to ensure he remains healthy. Malquot was transported to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi in a specially outfitted Marine Wildlife Rescue Vehicle. This temperature-controlled unit was designed for moving any large or small marine animal in need of assistance. The vehicle allowed veterinarians and animal care specialists to ride alongside Malquot the entire journey to monitor his vital statistics and mist his body with water.

Rob Yordi, general curator at SeaWorld Abu Dhabi and the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre, said: “Malquot's journey has been a testament to the dedication and collaborative efforts of all organizations involved in preserving the well-being of our indigenous marine life.”

Malquot has grown from a newborn neonate of less than one-month-old to a five-year-old male juvenile.

“We at the Yas SeaWorld Research and Rescue Centre and SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi are immensely proud to provide a new home for Malquot. As he continues to thrive in his new surroundings, his presence will serve as a valuable source of scientific knowledge to enhance our understanding of this species. This understanding is pivotal for the continued conservation efforts of dugongs across our region,” Yordi added.

There are approximately 3,000 dugongs in the territorial waters of Abu Dhabi, mostly found near Bu Tinah Island, which forms part of the Marawah Biosphere Reserve and Al Yasat Marine Protected Area. Community members are encouraged to call the EAD via the Abu Dhabi Government Call Center 800 555 to report any animals who may be injured or in danger.


More news from COP 28