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41. Dugong

Dugong dugon


Dugongs are more closely related to elephants than to other marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘sea cows’ because they feed almost exclusively on sea grass. Dugongs have long been associated with myths and legends – the Ark of the Covenant was reputedly protected by dugong hide, and early sightings have led to the legend of mermaids. Although commercial hunting of dugongs is now banned, the species may still be at risk from traditional hunting and destruction of sea grass beds by human activities. The majority of their threats are from human activities; such as incidental capture in fishing gear, boat strikes, damage or modification to habitat from trawling or human settlements on coasts, chemical pollution, and climate change. Through their large and fragmented range, it may be that distinct populations may constitute genetically distinct subspecies or separate species, highlighting the importance to work to conserve all populations. The dugong is the only living representative of its family Dugongidae, and one of four extant species within the entire of the Sirenia order, the other being manatees.

  • Order: Sirenia
  • Family: Dugongidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 240-270 cm
  • Weight: 230-360kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.49 (?)
ED Score: 59.3 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Relict populations of the species survive in coastal waters throughout the Indo-Pacific region, from the east coast of Africa to Vanuatu in the western Pacific. Today, most dugongs are found in northern Australian waters between Shark Bay in Western Australia, and Moreton Bay in Queensland.

Habitat and Ecology

The live in shallow coastal waters of tropical seas, where there is an abundance of sea grass; which is the majority of their diet. It is also regularly observed in deeper offshore waters in areas where the continental shelf is wide, shallow and protected. They are more strictly marine, than manatees, and are seldom found in freshwater.

Find out more

Loading species distribution map...

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Extreme weather Shipping Fishing Recreation Industry Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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