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PIA Press Release
2009/02/12

DENR, local environment officials inspect dead sea cow in Gensan

Koronadal City (February 12) - The head of the Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Service of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), this city, recently dispatched a three-member team to General Santos City to check on the reported death of a stranded sea cow, an endangered species.

Regional Technical Director Musa C. Saruang acted on the report of Bawing Barangay Kagawad Victor Jugarap, Jr., Committee Chair on Environment and Agriculture, on January 21, 2009, right after the barangay officials learned about the sea cow.

Engr. Rosalinda B. Cortez, the group's team leader, reported that the carcass of the sea cow, locally called "duyong", was found along the shore of Sarangani Bay, particularly near Ara Beach Resort in Purok Cabu of Barangay Bawing in General Santos City.

The dugong, known scientifically as Dugong dugon, is a gentle and slow-moving aquatic mammal (feeds milk to its young) that eat almost exclusively sea grasses found in sub-tropical and tropical seas like those in the Philippines.

Mr. Allan de los Santos, caretaker of Ara Beach Resort, said that they discovered the dead animal on January 20, 2009 from among the mangrove stands in the beach. They reported the matter to the police and to local environment officials. The Environment and Natural Resources Office of General Santos City, headed by Dr. Valiente J. Lastimoso, responded in the evening of the same day together with his staff and the ABS-CBN General Santos City.

Ecosystem Management Specialist II Joy C. Ologuin, a marine biologist, said that the sea mammal was found to be male, 2.5 meters (8 ft.) in length, with an estimated weight of 80 to 100 kilograms. It was in the sub-adult or juvenile stage, ranging from two to three years old.

Upon ocular examination, it was found that the mouth of the "dugong" was bleeding, however, there were no lesions and wounds present in the body.

"We could have dissected the body or get samples of gut content for necropsy (postmortem) analysis to determine the cause of death. However, the sea cow is already in its advanced stage of decomposition," Engr. Cortez, said.

The carcass was buried at Bawing Public Cemetery on January 21, 2009 at 12 noon through the assistance of the 512th Engineering Construction Battalion, headed by Major Roberto A. Reyes. It will be exhumed after one- and- a half to two months for recovery of the skeleton for anatomy studies by the Silliman University's Angelo King Environment Research and Marine Center in Dumaguete City headed by Dr. Angelo C. Alcala.

DENR XII's OIC-Regional Executive Director Raquil-Ali M. Lucman was saddened over the death of this gentle creature. "This is a big loss to the Biodiversity Conservation Program under DENR Secretary Lito Atienza. We do not want that the remaining sea cows will completely vanish from the face of the Earth. This species is facing a high risk of extinction due to hunting and habitat degradation. " Director Lucman said.

The WIKIPILIPINAS (http://en.wikipilipinas.org/) reported that there are sightings of dugongs in Isabela and Quezon provinces, southern Mindoro and Palawan, Guimaras Strait and Panay Gulf, northeastern Mindanao and southern Mindanao including the Sulu Archipelago and Sarangani Bay.

Although dugongs can live up to 70 years, their late sexual maturity (9 - 15 years) and long period of pregnancy (12-14 months) contribute to the low population of the species. In addition, the female usually mate and give birth to a single calf every three to seven years.

Section 27 of Republic Act No. 9147, otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, prohibits "collecting, hunting or possessing wildlife, their by-products and derivatives", among others. Violation of this law carries an imprisonment of a minimum of six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve (12) years and/or a fine of P100,000 to P1 million, if inflicted or undertaken against species listed as critical. The dugong is listed as critically endangered under DENR Administrative Order No. 2004-15, dated May 22, 2004. (DENR XII/PIA-SarGen) [top]

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