On the Search for the “Cow of the Sea”

Latest update August 3, 2019 Started on January 9, 2019
sea

This project aims to understand the dugongs in Calauit Island, Busuanga, Philippines by inferring its (1) relative abundance and spatial distribution, (2) habitat-use patterns, and (3) risk associated with the remaining population.

January 9, 2019
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In The Field

Have you seen a resting dugong?


In one of our random camera drops to assess the presence and absence of seagrass beds around the island, i was delighted that the camera was able to capture a resting dugong at approximately 10 meters.

I just applied to the SEE Initiative hoping to get an underwater drone! Dugongs are known to occur at depths reaching up to 37 meters, and with feeding trails seen up to depths of 33meters (Marsh and Saafeld, 1990; Lee Long and Coles, 1997). Just imagine how helpful the underwater drone would be in discovering and characterizing important subtidal seagrass areas that dugongs use as part of their home range! Knowing these information would indeed be useful in identifying key conservation areas for the dugongs in Calauit Island.

Bonus: there was also a turtle captured while I was reeling the camera back to the boat!

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“We consider dugongs as our ancestors. We love them as our ancestors.”, said Apo Fidel (Tagbanua Tribe leader)


Last week, we conducted the first simultaneous dugong monitoring this year with participation from our 61 citizen scientists— our heroes in dugong conservation! Malaking pasasalamat sa lahat ng nakilahok. 🙂

I really love what Apo Fidel said. This just highlights that people and communities play an integral part in conservation. Their sense of ownership and appreciation to their resources can definitely drive the success of conservation efforts.

This activity would not be possible without the support from the National Geographic Society, Community Centred Conservation (C3), UP-NSRI and of course the Tagbanua community (Nurunutan yang Tagbanwa tung Calawit may Quezon).

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Sharing the happiness whenever I see a #dugong. The Dugong (Dugong dugon) is considered Critically Endangered in the Philippines based on DAO No. 2004-15.

Sharing the happiness whenever I see a #dugong. The Dugong (Dugong dugon) is considered Critically Endangered in the Philippines based on DAO No. 2004-15.

Posted by Erina Pauline V. Molina on Saturday, May 25, 2019

Aboard our research boat. Kuya Norbert (bantay dugong/Tagbanua Tribe member/citizen scientist) and I have been investigating seagrass beds using our grab sampler and quadrat while trying to understand the home range of dugongs in the island. #CitizenScience

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It's been a month in the field just preparing for the simultaneous dugong monitoring program around the island.


Here's a video of random snippets from the field -- from climbing trees, swimming through seagrass beds to enjoying views from mountain tops!

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Posted by Erina Pauline V. Molina on Saturday, May 18, 2019
Expedition Background

Dugong (Dugong dugon) populations are known to be declining throughout its range because of by-catch fishery, direct hunting, boat collisions, and rapid coastal development. It is categorized as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List, indicating a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future. In the Philippines, dugongs are considered Critically Endangered based on Section 2 of DENR Administrative Order No.2004-15. Monitoring the counts and relative indices of dugongs is needed to assess its status and the viability of the population to exist, while understanding its ecology, seagrass habitat and their interaction with coastal inhabitants is important for effective conservation and management . This study aims to understand the dugongs in Northern Busuanga by inferring its relative abundance and spatial distribution. Ultimately, this study would like to provide recommendations on how to strengthen community-based conservation efforts on the management of dugong habitats at local and national level.


We already officially launched our Dugong project in Busuanga, Philippines — a partnership between UP-IESM and Community Centred Conservation (C3)-Philippines with funding from NSRI and National Geographic Society.

We also conducted focused group discussions in 3 coastal barangays including an ancestral domain inhabited by Manig-erekelen IP community (Tagbanua tribe), to get their initial perceptions on dugongs in their area.

This year is definitely going to be exciting!!!

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