What We Do
Almost 3 decades of research in the WIO have led us to believe that there are very, very few dugongs left. This WIOMSA project was designed to find out if dugongs still occur off East Africa and if they do, how many there are and how best to conserve them.
We hope to accomplish this over a number of phases:
Firstly, using historical reports and information, we’ve identified areas where dugongs occurred. Using satellite imagery and reports on sea grass diversity and abundance, we’ve determined where dugongs could/should be. Combining these bits of information, we’ve come up with ‘HOT SPOTS’, where we think dugongs might still be.
Secondly, we need to find out if dugongs occur at these hot spots, and if they do, are they common (abundant), or uncommon. To do this we talk to the community, the fishers, the elders and the women (who prepare the food) . We ask them if they see dugongs? How often they see dugongs? Where they see dugongs? We actually administer a questionnaire, specifically designed to gather this sort of information. Obviously if the community does not see dugongs, it does not mean they are not there, but it usually does! We then plan to deploy underwater recorders, which should pick up the sounds of dugongs, if they are there. This sort of truths what the communities have told us and by examining how often we hear dugongs, we can get an idea if they are common, or not.
In areas where dugongs are reportedly common, we want to fly, to try to count them. This is not always possible, but where it is, we’ll use the technique.
Lastly, given the results from our research, we need to find ways to conserve any dugongs we find. To do this, we need to work both with communities and authorities and this is the tricky part! Making recommendations to the authorities is easy, but getting them to implement them is not so easy. Perhaps even more difficult is to get communities, that rely on coastal areas for their livelihood, to change their behaviour, so that dugongs (and obviously the coastal ecosystem) are conserved. This last phase is a challenge, but we hope to meet it, once we have the relevant information.