Background and Approach:

Dugong (Dugong dugon) also called as ‘Sea Cow’ is one of the four surviving species in the Order Sirenia and it is the only existing species of herbivorous mammal that lives exclusively in the sea including in India. Dugongs are protected in India and occur in Gulf of Mannar, PalkBay, Gulf of Kutch and Andaman and Nicobar islands. Once abundant in Indian waters, Dugong population has now reduced to about 200 individuals and is believed to be continuously declining in its number and range. Dugong conservation is nothing but coastal conservation being a flagship species in its range.

In order to conserve and manage the declining populations of dugong in India, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change under the Government of India constituted a ‘Task Force for Conservation of Dugongs’ to look into the entire gamut of issues related to conservation of dugongs and implementation of the ‘UNEP/CMS Dugong MoU’ in India and also to facilitate the country to act as the leading nation in the South Asia Sub-region with respect to dugong conservation.

The Task Force has analysed the entire spectrum of issues linked to dugong and their habitat conservation in India and herewith recommends following goals and objectives for Conservation and Management Plan for Dugongs (Dugong dugon) and their habitats in India;

Goal 1: Improve Understanding

Objective 1. Improve our understanding of dugong through research and monitoring
Objective 2. Improve our understanding of dugong habitats through research and monitoring

Goal 2. Conserve Species

Objective 3. Reduce direct and indirect causes of dugong mortality

Goal 3. Conserve Habitat

Objective 4. Conserve and manage dugong habitats.

Goal 4.  Promote Awareness and Education

Objective 5. Develop awareness for conservation of dugong and its habitat

Goal 5.  Develop legal framework

Objective 6. Develop legal protection of dugongs and their habitats.

Goal 6: Enhance national, regional and international cooperation

Objective 7. Develop national, regional and international cooperation on dugong research and conservation

Objective 8. Promote Implementation of the MoU

Wildlife Institute of India with kind supports of CAMPA is planned to implement some of Conservation Actions highlighted in this National Conservation Action Plan largely research and monitoring, working with communities to conserve dugongs that are outside PAs, capacity building,  etc. This programme would be carried out in close cooperation with various stakeholders mainly the State/UT Forest Departments, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, CMFRI, UNEP-Dugong MoU Secretariat, etc.