Juvenile dugong found dead in S'pore waters on Oct. 9

Retrieved by scuba divers, the carcass was autopsied by NParks.

Zi Shan Kow | October 10, 2021, 04:44 PM

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On Oct. 9, a juvenile dugong was found dead and floating belly up in the waters near Pulau Hantu, an island south of mainland Singapore.

Carcass recovered by scuba divers

According to Samantha Lam, one of the divers on the boat, they were headed back to the Republic Of Singapore Yacht Club on mainland Singapore from Pulau Hantu after their morning dive.

Lam told Mothership that the boat captain had spotted something white floating in the water, and some on the boat initially thought that it was a dolphin.

Video by Robert Tan/FB.

But as they approached the animal and realised that they were looking at a dugong, Lam said she "couldn't believe it".

Everyone at the scene was also "really excited", as it is extremely rare to spot a dugong in Singapore waters.

The boat then stopped near the dugong, and some divers and members of the crew helped to pull the carcass onboard.

Photo by Samantha Lam.

They called the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LCKNHM) to check if they would take in the carcass, and placed the dugong in a big trash bag after taking some photos.

When they docked, the dugong was transferred onto a trolley and lifted onto a car trunk before it was transported it to the museum.

One of the divers estimated that the animal weighed 30kg.

Photos by Samantha Lam.

Juvenile died recently

The carcass looked fresh, and felt firm and supple to the touch, according to Lam.

Lam said that it was likely a calf, as the dugong was only about 1.5m long, and adults can reach 2.6m in length.

Photo by Samantha Lam.

While the dugong's eyes were still open, blood started oozing from its right eye.

Photo by Samantha Lam.

Photo by Samantha Lam.

Otherwise, the carcass was intact, without any clear signs of trauma or fresh wounds.

Autopsy done

In response to Mothership's queries, the National Parks Board (NParks) said that the Animal & Veterinary Service conducted a post-mortem on the young dugong.

"There were no visible signs to indicate that the death of the young dugong was caused by physical trauma," said Karenne Tun, Director of Coastal and Marine at the National Biodiversity Centre in NParks.

"As young dugongs are known to stay close to their mothers until they reach maturity, the calf may have been separated from the mother before its demise."

Tun said that NParks is working with LCKNHM and the Department of Biological Sciences from the National University of Singapore to investigate the cause of the death.

The museum also took tissue and organ samples for research purposes, and will further process the carcass.

Image by LCKNHM.

Image by Marcus Chua/Twitter.

Dugongs in Singapore

Highly endangered globally, dugongs are listed as Critically Endangered in Singapore.

While they used to be common in the Johor Straits, sightings in the wild are extremely rare now.

Earlier this year, another dead dugong was found floating near Big Sister's Island.

The biggest threat faced by the dugong is seagrass habitat loss and degradation, which is the herbivore's main source of food.

The dugong's feeding trails are commonly seen in seagrass meadows at Chek Jawa and Pulau Semakau.

Singapore's seagrasses are all at risk due to water pollution, marine litter, fishing nets and coastal development.

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Top image by Robert Tan/FB.