Conservation status:  VULNERABLE
Common name: Dugong, sea cow, sea pig, sea camel
Scientific name: Dugong dugon
Type: mammal
Diet: seagrass
Length: less than 3 m
Weight: 250-900 Kg

Dugongs, one of four species of sea cows, are cousins to Manatee, and live in warm waters of Indo-Pacific Ocean and coastal Africa.   Dugongs, unlike their cousins, can not swim in freshwaters, have smooth skin, and their tails are fluked.  They are not related to cows nor related to whales or dolphins (even though they are fully aquatic).  They are actually thought to share ancestry with elephants.    Despite their nick name or association with large animals, Dugong in Malay translates to “lady of the sea” (derived from the word duyung).   It is also speculated that Dugongs have inspired stories about mermaid.

The ladies of the sea are facing extinction because of excessive hunting and more because of decreasing habitat caused by human activities.   Dugongs only eat two particular type of sea grass (Halophila and Haladule) out of 60 in large volume.  However fishermen have ravaged Southeast Asia’s seagrass beds with their cages, grates, and nets – resulting in fast loss of habitat.  More than half of world’s motorized fishing vessels operate in Asian waters.  Miners and dredgers are degrading the dugong’s habitat, too. Their work scars up the fields and contributes to sediment build up, resulting in seagrass loss and disruptions to the dugong’s life cycle.


  1.  Marsh, H. & Sobtzick, S. (2015). “Dugong dugon“. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN
  2. Burnie D and Wilson DE (Eds.), Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World’s Wildlife. DK Adult (2005)
  3. Dugongs in the Great Barrier Reef: Current State of Knowledge,  Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

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