KRABI(NNT) – A baby dugong in Krabi died on August 17 last year with plastic garbage filling her stomach. The death of dugong “Mariam” has sparked a call for marine resources conservation, with 17th August of every year now the National Dugong Conservation Day.

On 26th April last year, officials found a 6-month old baby dugong beached in Ao Tueng bay in Krabi. This young dugong was still feeding on her mother’s milk, and was unsuccessfully reintroduced back into the sea several times, only to be found beached again.

The officials then transported Mariam to a suitable location off the shores of Libong Island in Trang, with officials from Phuket Marine Biological Center, veterinarians and local leaders acting as her nannies.

Dugongs are omnivore creatures which usually feeds on sea grass. However at 6-months old, the baby dugong still needed to feed on milk. Without her mother, the officials needed to cradle her and feed her from bottles, creating images that turned into a sensation among the general public. The caretaking team then taught Mariam to feed on sea grass, and swim along with an orange boat, which the dugong became attached to. The orange boat later gained the nickname Orange Mom.

This operation to take care of this baby dugong raised an awareness of sea grass and marine resources conservation in Thai waters.

Yesterday, locals on Libong Island held a commemorative event for Mariam, with seminars on dugong conservation, a beach clean-up and the national dugong conservation plan, aimed at increasing the dugong population.

The panel also discussed tourism and fisheries management, to reduce impacts to dugong’s habitats, the establishment of a dugong life saving center, the establishment of a rare animal museum and learning center, as well as other campaigns promoting dugong conservation.

The national dugong conservation plan is aimed at increasing the dugong population in Thailand by 50 percent in 10 years, increasing their number from 250 to 375 in Thai waters.

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