With her Cousin Manatee, Dugong is the only surviving member of the Sirenia or the Sea Cow Family; Stellar’s Sea Cow, Dugong’s Older Sister, became extinct shortly after being discovered by Europeans in the 1700s. Moreover, Dugong Herself has been hunted to extinction in many areas along the coastlines of Asia.
Dugong is a shy, harmless Marine Mammal with a sleek, solid body. At night, She drifts lazily in shallow waters of the sea, grazing on plants. Unlike Manatee, Dugong never enters rivers and prefers coral reefs for her home. With the strong waving motion of her tail, Dugong swims gracefully through the water. Using her flat, hairy snout, She roots for plants at the sea bottom. Dugong uses her flippers to scratch her face, to rub her gums, or to guide her calf.
Ranging from Australia to the Persian Gulf, Dugong has been a part of human history. A shield of tough Dugong skin protected the Ark of the Covenant. Since Dugong’s meat provided bounty for many people, Moslems living in South-West Asia considered Her a gift from God. Native people of Australia believed that Dugong possessed valuable medicinal qualities.
What Dugong does is to provide for people. She feeds them, and She grazes to keep their water roads open. Dugong leaves people with a feeling of goodwill in her wake. Just remember not to be a patsy and be hunted to near extinction.
Dugong’s Teachings Include:
“Its gentle, graceful progress through life often left sailors from the past feeling sure they had witnessed the passing of a beautiful ‘Mermaid’. So goodwill and good luck became legendary and synonymous with the arrival of the Dugong.” Copyright: “Wisdom of Australian Animals”, Ann Williams-Fitzgerald.
“Dugong Dreaming reminds us to nurture ourselves if we are mothers, and to alternatively honour our mother for the part she has played in our life.” Copyright: “Animal Messengers”, Scott Alexander King.
Take time to read what Dugong’s Cousin, Manatee has to teach.
Conservation Note: Dugongs are severely endangered and are protected in Arab and African counties, as well as in Australia and Sri Lanka.
The difference between Manatee and Dugong is that Dugong has tusks, which Manatee does not. Dugong’s flippers also lack the rudimentary nails that Manatee has.
Dugong Photo copyrighted by The State of Queensland. Environmental Protection Agency, Australia