Sea cow found dead off Samal isle

The sea cow weighed 300 kilograms and was measured 2.7 meter-long and was believed to be nursing a calf. It was found near the shores of Dapia village, in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Talikod Island by three fishermen who alerted officials of the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos)'s Fisheries office.

It is the first time that the death of the sea mammal was documented here, said Roberto Aquino, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources officer-in-charge at the Igacos sub-station. In 2003, Aquino told MindaNews, another sea cow was reportedly found dead near a beach in Talikod island  but was not documented.

After conducting necropsy, City Veterinarian Edunel Sala announced the sea mammal died of asphyxiation when water clogged the sea mammal’s lungs, and ruled out earlier suspicion that it sustained a gunshot wound.

Sala, who opened the mammal's body in front of curious residents, said the mammal died probably because it was trapped by fish nets known here as "bunsod". He said sea cows need to breath air every five minutes.

City officials said residents in Talikod Island have been reporting that they have recent sightings of the mammals.

The dead sea cow, placed in the wharf of the Peñaplata waterfront, attracted the residents in the area despite the rain Friday afternoon and many confided to MindaNews that it was their first time to see a "live" dugong. "Only that it is dead," Michael, 24, said.

Brandon, 16, an out of school youth, said “how come a fish will drown and how come there is grass in the sea”

Manang Gaga, 52, said she she was amazed upon seeing a real sea cow, her only exposure to "dugong" was when it figured as one of the characters of "Marina", a fantasy series that used to air over ABS-CBN.

Davao City councilor Leo Avila, who co-chairs the Save the Davao Gulf Foundation, explained briefed onlookers on what the sea cow was and asked them to help protect the mammal

Florente Coronel, officer in charge of the IGACOS' city fisheries and aquatic resources management office, said the sea cow's death would prompt them to push an initial plan to put up public awareness campaign in the island city with the help of a non-government organization.

Igacos Information Officer Noel Garcia said they plan to preserve the dead mammal and use it in their advocacy campaign.

A "dugong" is a unique marine mammal found in the Philippine waters, said the on-line information of Wildlife Fun (WWF) Philippines. They have torpedo-shaped bodies, have small flippers and whale-like tails. An adult "dugong" can grow up to three meters long and weigh more than 400 kilograms. The newborns are over a meter long.

WWF said the "dugong" is peaceful and shy creature. They swim along the coasts and in between islands, to look for sea grass, their staple food. Sea cows have a life span of at most 70 years.

A female dugong will give birth to a single calf after 12 to 13 months, and would nurse it for at least 18 months. The mother's teats are located under its flippers. It would be another three to five years before a female dugong conceives again.

Dugongs have become extinct in many areas of the Philippines. Most of the remaining "sea cows" can be found in Palawan.

Since 1982, the International Union for Conservation of Nature-World Conservation Union classified "sea cows" as vulnerable to extinction.