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News: India’s first Dugong conservation reserve will be built in Tamil Nadu for the conservation of Dugong, a marine mammal.
• The reserve will spread over an area of 500 km in Palk Bay on the southeast coast of Tamil Nadu.
• Palk Bay is a semi-enclosed shallow water body with a water depth maximum of 13 meters.
• Located between India and Sri Lanka along the Tamil Nadu coast, the dugong is a flagship species in the region.
• Dugong or the sea cow is the State animal of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
• This endangered marine species survives on seagrass and other aquatic vegetation found in the area. (IUCN status: Vulnerable)
• It is the only herbivorous mammal that is strictly marine and is the only extant species in the family Dugongidae.
• Dugongs are usually about three-meter long and weigh about 400 kg.
• Dugongs have an expanded head and trunk-like upper lip.
• Elephants are considered to be their closest relatives. However, unlike dolphins and other cetaceans, sea cows have two nostrils and no dorsal fin.
• Distributed in shallow tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific region, in India, they are found in the Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
• Dugongs are long-living animals, that have a low reproductive rate, long generation time, and high investment in each offspring.
• The female dugongs do not bear their first calf until they are at least 10 and up to 17 years old.
• A dugong population is unlikely to increase more than 5% per year. They take a long time to recover due to the slow breeding rate.
• Having being declared vulnerable, the marine animal calls for conserving efforts.Studies have suggested the reasons for the extinction of the animal such as slow breeding rate, fishing, and the loss of habitat.
• They are also known to suffer due to accidental entanglement and drowning in gill-nets.
• The conservation reserve can promote growth and save vulnerable species from the verge of extinction.
• Dugongs are protected in India under Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 which bans the killing and purchasing of dugong meat.