Dugong in Marsa Mubarak, Abu Dabab | The Egyptian dugong Facts, an Overview, Diet & Habitat Information, Snorkeling with Dugong Marsa Alam.

Dugong in Marsa Mubarak, Abu Dabab

Why is it called Dugong?

Most probably the name Dugong comes from the Malay word ‘Duyong’, which means lady of the sea or mermaid.

What do Dugong look like?

Dugongs have fluked tails, similar to whales, and a large snout with an upper lip that protrudes over their mouth and bristles instead of whiskers. They have rounded heads with small eyes and a large snout. The nostrils are at the top of the snout and can be closed diving to keep the water out.

Dugong swims using their whale-like fluked tail and they use their front flippers for balance and turning. Their movements are often slow and graceful. Early explorers and sailors believed that they were mermaids because of their streamlined bodies and the large teats at the base of the flippers of the female dugong.

Dugong family

Dugong (Dugong dugon) is a marine mammal of the Sirenian order. The Sirenian order is divided into two families: the Trichechidae with 3 species of manatees and the Dugongidae and its unique representative, the dugong.

Facts About Dugong

Common Name:  Dugong

Scientific Name: Dugong dugon

Type: Mammals

Diet: Herbivore

Group Name: Herd

Average Life Span in the Wild: 70 years

Size: 8 to 10 feet

Weight: 510 to 1,100 pounds

Size relative to: 3.5 m

Status: Vulnerable

Current population trend: Decreasing

Places: Coastal East Africa, Coral Triangle

How big are Egyptian dugongs?

Certain individuals can reach 4 meters long a weigh up to 900 kg. The Egyptian dugong in Marsa Alam is usually up to 2.50m-3m and up to 500kg. It generally lives alone or in small groups and frequents open-water coastal habitats.

Does Dugong still exist?

Yes, dugongs still exist in more than 30 countries but elsewhere such as Mauritius, the Maldives, and parts of Cambodia and Laos, dugongs have already disappeared.

How do dugongs feed? What do dugongs eat?

Their main activity is to feed and their daily needs are estimated at 30 kg of food. Dugong’s method of feeding is by moving with its short flippers, making clouds of sand while filtering the food, and leaving recognizable feeding trails in the seagrass beds. As stated above, Dugongs feed primarily on seagrasses. Recent studies indicate that they prefer sea-grass species higher in nitrogen and lower in fibers such as Halophila ovalis

How are dugongs acting when there is not enough food?

When dugongs do not have enough to eat, they delay breeding, making habitat conservation a critical issue. Seagrass meadows are very sensitive to human interference. Preferring the quality to the quantity, dugongs are very selective with their diet, choosing highly nutritive and easily digestible herbs such as Syringodium isoetifolium, Halodule unnerves (rich in nutrients but poor in fiber), and Cymodocea serrulate

How do dugongs breathe?

Dugongs eat underwater grasses day and night but they are not like whales or dolphins, they cannot stay underwater for a long time. These Sea cows can stay underwater for 5 minutes before surfacing and they breathe with their heads above water. These mammals spend much of their time alone or in pairs.

How do mate?

Dugongs reach sexual maturity at about 10 years old, and they live on average 30 years.  In the mating period that occurs throughout the year, male dugongs become aggressive and compete violently for females, trying to embrace them and mate. This could explain the scars that appear on the back and sides of the female. The period of gestation lasts 12 to 13 months and the female gives birth to its calf that will be independent after approximately 2 years.

During this period, the mother teaches its calf the principles of migration as well as the location of places to feed. The female can reproduce every four or five years. We can consider that a female will have no more than 4 or 5 young during her life.

Reproduction and Conservation

Female dugongs have one calf after 13 months of pregnancy, and the female gives birth to a single calf that will receive considerable parental care until it reaches sexual maturity. And sometimes catching a ride on her broad back.

How long does Dugong live?

Dugong can live up to 70 years but the oldest dugong that has been examined for age was estimated to be 73 years old. They weigh over 900 kg and up to 4 meters and they eat up to 40kg of seagrass.

Why do fishermen hunt dugongs?

Dugong meat tastes like beef. Dugong hunting for food and oil was once widespread throughout the dugong’s range and still occurs in at least 31 countries. However, thanks to global conservation efforts, today the dugong is legally protected in most countries.

Why aren’t there more of them?

The reason why there are not more of them and they are classified globally as vulnerable to extinction is because they are considered prey for sharks, killer whales, and crocodiles.

But the real reason is human activities. Hunting has drastically reduced dugong populations in some areas and the dugong habitat is under pressure from coastal development, pollution, trawling, gill nets, and other degradation.  While dugong is threatened on a worldwide scale, Australia has a large proportion of the remaining population. This makes Australia the largest, and globally most important, a refuge for dugong.

Where can we see dugongs nowadays?

  • Approximately 70 000 in the North of Australia (East and West coasts),
  • Around 1000 in New Caledonia.
  • Approximately 6000 in the Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia: about 1000 – Farasan Islands project),
  • Less than 100 in Mozambique (Bazaruto Bay Project),
  • Less than 50 individuals in Kenya,
  • Some individuals are seen on a regular basis in Egypt in the Red Sea,
  • Some tens of individuals in Malaysia,
  • Occurrences in Thailand, Papua-New Guinea, Indonesia, Philippines, Vanuatu, Seychelles, Andaman Islands (India)- (Marsh et al. 2002)

Where can you dive with Dugongs?

You can dive with dugongs in many places in the world, including almost 37 countries. You can spot them always in sheltered lagoons and bays in warm water. So, you can see them in the Indian Ocean, the western Pacific Oceans, Red Sea, East Africa, the Philippines, and Australia. In Egypt, you can see dugongs in Abu Dabbab Bay, in Marsa Mubarak Snorkeling, Near Equinox hotel in Marsa Alam, Marsa Asalaya, and Hamata Islands Snorkeling Marsa Alam.

Dugongs in the Egyptian Red Sea

Dr. Hamed Gohar an Egyptian biologist 1957, published the first scientific study of dugongs in the Red Sea. There is evidence that the animals were known and hunted by ancient cultures in the area and, in fact, were legally hunted in Egypt until just a few decades ago. Please do not hurt these classified globally as ‘vulnerable to extinction. In Egypt, from Hurghada to El Shalatin (200 km north of the Sudanese border), the number of dugongs was between 12 and 17 individuals

What can we do to protect dugongs?

Wherever you are in the world whether in protected areas or not, take care to avoid injuring or distressing dugongs. Avoid damaging seagrass and don’t drag boats over seagrass meadows.

Reporting: Immediately report any injured or dead dugongs, turtles, or dolphins by phone on 1300 Animal (1300 264 625).

  1. Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a Sea Cow.
  2. Do not restrict the normal movement or behavior of the Sea Cow.
  3. Maintain a minimum distance of 3 to 4 meters from the Sea Cow.
  4. Take plenty of pictures but avoid flash photography which can scare the Sea Cow. Photograph any characteristic features which may help re-identify the Sea Cow in the future.
  5. Do not use underwater motorized diver propulsion.
  6. Avoid underwater acoustic signaling devices.
  7. Limit your observation to a maximum time of 30 minutes.
  8. Groups of swimmers should stay together and ideally remain at the surface.
  9. Don’t conduct any Skin diving / Free diving near the Sea Cow.
  10. Don’t feed the Sea Cow.
  11. Scuba divers Should keep a safe distance from the bottom and DO NOT move the sand or sit down on the Sea-Grass.
  12. DO not throw litter onto the beach or over the side of the boat before or after diving/Fishing Trips from Marsa Alam.
  13. Pick up underwater litter that looks fresh.