Two rare and endangered sea mammals being caged by a fisherman in Kokoya Island, North Maluku in Indonesia were eventually released into the wild after a group of divers shared video and pictures on social media.
The divers were shocked to find two dugongs (otherwise known as “sea cows”) fenced in by nets and one of the animals with its tail tied to a large rope.
One of the divers, Galuh Riyadi, described the condition of the animals to BBC Indonesia: “”There are two dugong placed in two different nets, the small one was not tied up, and a big roughly two meters were tied tail. His body wounds and its tail was nearly broke up due to friction from this bond.”
— Lasti Kurnia (@lastikurnia) March 13, 2016
Dugongs are one of four living species from the order Sirenia, which also includes three species of manatees. The dugong are the last sirenian in its range throughout the Indo-West Pacific and eat seagrass in shallow bays.
Unfortunately, the species is under severe threat and is vulnerable to extinction. Many are killed through fishing-related fatalities, loss of its habitat (they eat sea-grass) and hunting.
It appears that the fisherman caged the animals to earn money from tourists. The divers told the captor that dugong are a protected species and that the animals should be set free. Not convinced that the fisherman would do the right thing, Galuh posted the video to social media and tagged the Minister of Marine and Fisheries. Soon the #SaveDugongMorotai hashtag spread and people called for the animals to be rescued.
Government officials quickly responded and got in touch with Galuh within a few hours to get the specifics of where the two animals were caged.
The next day authorities arrived on the island and freed the animals. A photo of one of the dugong’s being freed was posted to Twitter.
— PANGKALAN BITUNG (@psdkp_lan5) March 14, 2016
Although this fisherman did an unconscionable thing, other fishermen in Asia are working with marine conservationists to track and conserve dugongs. Just this year, fishermen in the Philippines were given smartphones and apps to help conservationists protect an endangered species by reporting sightings and helping track the animals.
And in Thailand, the dugong population grew in Trang province from 135 to 150, a growth contributed in part to fishermen cooperating by not using dangerous fishing gear, which dugong tend to get tangled in and drown.
I’m so glad that the divers reported the wrongdoing and that government officials acted so promptly!