Friday, March 23, 2012

Dugongs at Mantanani Island - A lady you rarely see

SANCTUARY: Locals want Mermaid islands be turned into marine park to protect the dwindling dugong population

KOTA BELUD: MANY visitors willingly take a 50-minute boat ride to Mantanani Islands near here with the hope of catching a glimpse of the famous "lady of the sea".

The best time to see a dugong is between October and February, but with the population slowly on the brink of extinction, such sightings are becoming rare.

These endangered dugongs, dubbed "seacows", are semi-nomadic, travelling long distances in search of food and occasionally found grazing on sea grass near here, 80km north of Kota Kinabalu, at a cluster of islands also known as Mermaid islands.

Mantanani Paradise human resources manager Zamzani P. Amin said the last dugong sighting was last year when a juvenile was spotted feeding on the seabed located north side of the island near Mantanani Kecil. However, no proper recording was done.

"Mantanani is blessed with them, but not any more.

"The dugongs were hunted for their meat and oil, and the fish bombing frightened them away."

Mantanani Paradise, established in 2004, is the second operator to operate in the island that currently boasts more than 13 dive sites.

He said many divers especially from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and the United Kingdom would come during the diving seasons with the hope of an encounter with the unique marine mammal.

A recent issue of AsianDiver magazine carrying a picture of a diver patting a dugong in Mantanani helped fuel their interest.

"We will tell visitors to pray for a sighting, as the waters around Borneo are known to support a small population especially here.

"But with the dwindling population, we tell them that they would have to be extremely lucky.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Dugongs at Mantanani Island - A lady you rarely see

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