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Dugong added to Okinawa's endangered species Red List

Date Posted: 2007-08-09

The dugong now has official protection.

The quiet-natured lumbering sea mammals populating northern Okinawan waters have been declared the "most highly endangered species" and added to the Ministry of the Environment’s Red List of endangered species. About 50 dugong are thought to live in the Oura Wan area near the planned site of a new military heliport.

The dugong is the only living remnant of the Dugongidae, closely related with Steller’s Sea Cow, hunted out of existence in the 1800’s. The dugong and three similar manatee species, are all that remain of the order Sirenia. Dudong have no dorsal fins or hind limbs, and feed on sea grass. They differ from manatees by a dolphin-like tail and a unique skull. Dugong stay close to shorelines, where meals are more plentiful.

Zenzo Uchida, Director of Churaumi Aquarium, says the listing “is a very strong meaning to trigger specific protection for dugong.” He says Churaumi wants to develop a dugong project together with the Ministry of Environment, the Agency of Fisheries, and the Self Defense Agency, to be sure protection areas are put into place.

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