DOHA: A dead sea animal, suspected to be a dugong, was spotted yesterday by an expatriate couple at Semaisma beach near Al Khor.
Found very close to the sea waters, the animal was apparently washed ashore during a high tide. Dugong, also called “sea cow” is a mammal that has been listed as a species vulnerable to extinction. Qatar is said to have the second large st population of dugongs.
“ First we thought it was a seal. However, the rounded head, that was partially decayed and the shape of the tail give strong indication that it is a dugong. The animal was more than one metre long,” said Neumann Dias and his wife Genevieve, who came to The Peninsula office last evening, with pictures of the dead animal that they captured with their camera.
They said the dead mammal was spotted in an isolated part of the beach that has not been frequented by visitors.
“It was on the other side of the family area. Few people visit this place. This part of the beach is not used for fishing,” said Dias, ruling out the possibility that the animal could have been caught in a fishing net.
What caused the animal’s death is not known but the incident could cause concern among conservationists, if it is confirmed to be a dugong, since the population of this species is dwindling all over the world. Indiscriminate hunting, fish-related fatalities and habitat degradation are considered the main reasons for the decline in their numbers.
Increased fishing activity with use of large nets often destroys the coral reef resulting in unfortunate accident and killing of the dugongs. Marine debris and increased pollution due to oil spill threatens the natural habitat of the dugongs. Additionally, urbanisation also has led to increased sedimentation, soil erosion, destruction of coastal vegetation and increased water turbidity that are harmful for the habitats of these animals.
Loss in habitat and degradation of ecosystem resulted in reduction in availability of food for the dugongs. Dugongs are also natural prey for killer whales, crocodiles and sharks. The Supreme Council for Environment and Natural Reserves (SCENR) in Qatar, in 2008 had conducted a study in collaboration with Emiri Air Force on dugong’s habitat, as a prelude to taking steps to protect the species.
Dugongs of the Arabian Gulf region feed almost exclusively on seagrass beds that stretch from eastern shoreline of Saudi Arabia to the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. However, mindless construction works in the coastal waters have altered much of their range in the borderlines of Qatari waters and most of the Gulf’s dugongs now live between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, it has been disclosed.
Follow us on our social media channels: