13 Nov Unlocking the Mystery of Dugongs: The Role of Citizen Science in Dugong Population Monitoring in the Lease Islands

A recent sighting of Dugong in the Lease Islands has been a breath-taking spectacle of nature, leaving an indelible impression on those fortunate enough to witness it. However, the estimated population of Dugong in Lease Islands remains unknown. 

The unknown population of dugongs underscores the urgency of ongoing monitoring, emphasizing the significance of these efforts to better comprehend and safeguard these unique marine mammals and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Being listed as a vulnerable marine species by the IUCN Red List, dugong faces multiple threats, to mention a few: habitat loss, entanglement in fishing gear, and boat strikes. To conserve the population of these giant mammals, monitoring their populations is essential for evaluating their status and devising effective conservation strategies

With that vulnerable status, the presence of dugong as “ecosystem engineers,” is undeniable. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and diversity of seagrass ecosystems upon which numerous species rely. Therefore, dugong monitoring is significant for the conservation and protection of these marine mammals and their ecosystems.

To support that, Coral Triangle Center (CTC)  has been conducting dugong population surveys and developing citizen science initiatives to encourage community participation in collecting the data and information of dugong population in the Islands.

Through CTC’s training and guidance, the communities have taken an active role in documenting this extraordinary encounter. The citizen scientists’ program has captured rare images of the dugongs as part of a citizen science initiative, adding a valuable dimension to the conservation efforts in the Lease Islands.

To date, the CTC team has reported at least 28 sightings of dugong. The report was collected from both CTC survey (11 times) and citizen science reporting (17 times). The sightings have shown that the Lease Islands provide an ideal habitat for these incredible marine mammals.

CTC’s citizen science has played a vital role in dugong monitoring by engaging local communities in the process. It allows communities to actively contribute to the conservation effort and report dugong population data, which is invaluable in gathering information from diverse perspectives.

The dugong sighting report from the local community strengthens the dugong population data that will be used in developing strategic plans for Dugong Management in the Lease Islands MPA. 

Writers: Arapa Efendi, Purwanto, Kasman
Photos: Kasman/CTC

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