Adventures and Sports
The Discovery of Dugong in the Land of Digong
Julius Calvin Santos | May 24, 2016
Davao is blessed with so many bounties of nature, from the island of Samal to the peak of Mt. Apo. This lush city is teeming with flora and fauna that no other Philippine metropolis can surpass or even match. But what most people do not know is that off its coast, Davao is equally stunning and has kept a wide array of secrets not known to the outside world. One of which, is the existence of these gentle giants of the sea called Dugong that are so adorable, you will easily fall for its charm.
The locals have long known of the existence of these creatures, however, they have remained elusive in the lenses of visitors, that is why only few have documented its existence. In December 2015, the group of Dive ta Bai, headed by Ian S. Uy of Dive ta Bai Bohol and John Bartazan of Dive ta Bai Davao has partnered up with Dahican Boys, George Plaza and Winston Plaza in an expedition dive to finally document and interact with these "Sea Cows."
Prior to their encounter, the group underwent an orientation on the diet, life and interaction “do’s” and “don’ts.” This includes establishing a safe distance from the animal, "No touch" policy and no flash photography. The group went straight to an undisclosed location, which is known to be a feeding ground of the animal. Shortly after, they’ve spotted a pair of them, swimming at the bottom of the sea. What caught their attention though is the juvenile Dugong that approached them and was showing curiosity with their gadgets. Apparently, it was an orphaned dugong calf that wanted to play with them. It was extra intimate with the free divers, which gave them an opportunity to use their selfie sticks and take priceless photos (no contact) of the calf.
The existence of this aquatic mammal has been long kept from outsiders in an effort to protect them from exploitation. The animal has a slow reproduction rate, producing only a single offspring every 2.5 to 5 years. Because of this, the dugong is listed in the International Union of Conversation of Nature and Natural Resources as vulnerable to extinction.
Fortunately, the local population of this creature is protected by Amihan sa Dahican, in partnership with Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Amihan Boys serve as “Bantay Dagat” that secure the natural habitat from possible poachers to protect the lives of these adorable water mammals.
Their gentleness make the Dugongs vulnerable to exploitations. Thanks to the toughness of these local organizations, the cuteness and charm of these water-dwelling mammals will be witnessed by the succeeding generations in the years to come.
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