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Author/Editor: N. Sivasothi
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore.


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Thu 08 Jun 2006

Dugong carcass washed ashore on southern Tekong

Category : news

A three metre female Dugong (Sea cow, "Ikan duyung" (Malay), Dugong dugon) carcass was washed ashore on Pulau Tekong's southern shore on Tuesday, 6th June 2006. Staff of Surbana Consultants Private Limited informed National Parks Board. Jeffrey Low of NParks' National Biodiversity Reference Centre alerted me at the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

The Raffles Museum is the national depository for animal specimens and we have great interest in recovering roadkills and stranded carcasses which can reveal useful information about Singapore's wildlife for management, education and research.

So I gathered a team for a salvage comprising Zeehan Jaafar, Tommy Tan, Yeo Keng Loo, Abigayle Ng, Jani Thuaibah and myself. We arrived at Pulau Tekong Area D1 the next morning, Wednesday, 7th June 2006, courtesy of Surbana staff. We primarily intended to salvage the skull and lower jawbone. The dugong carcass was believed to have been at least six-days old by then. However blood flow during retrieval of the skull suggested otherwise.

Though slightly bloated from gases, the dugong carcass was in surprisingly reasonable condition and was thus further dissected. There were no extraordinary signs of physical impact and she had a stomach full of sea grass. Cause of death is unknown. Relevant material was retrieved and brought back to NUS for examination.

The previous extraction of a dugong skull and lower jaw was from a smaller carcass beached on East Coast Park in July 2001 (see "The Body-snatchers." By N. Sivasothi. Raffles Museum Newsletter No. 2, 15 April 2002). That skull is on display in the Raffles Museum's Public Gallery.

Dugongs or sea cows are found in shallow seas throughout the tropical Indo-west Pacific. Around Singapore, sightings of live individuals are occasionally reported in the Johor Straits, in the waters around Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong and Changi, where beds of sea-grass abound (sea-grass being a staple in the diet of dugongs).

This Tekong carcass report follows a recent report of a live dugong off Chek Jawa reported by The Blue Tempeh:

18 May 2006 - "a dugong was sighted at Chek Jawa. A contractor for the board walk being constructed at Chek Jawa had reported seeing a dugong surfacing while at work. This report is an exciting one since it's been some time since the last live sighting of a dugong (1998)!

Villagers who used to live by the coasts of Pulau Ubin said that they would often get "visits" from families of dugongs. It's not surprising since P. Ubin has one of the last standing crops of seagrasses, the food of the dugongs. Sadly, however, the contractor also mentioned that he saw some sort of net around the dugong's neck."


Map from Google Earth.

More news and pictures will be posted later.

Links about Dugongs:

Posted at 9:38AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | ,