Dugong: Animal that inspired mermaid tales extinct in China

Dugong: Animal that inspired mermaid tales extinct in China

A manatee-related creature that is thought to have inspired the legends of mermaids and sirens has been deemed extinct in China, according to researchers.

Only three respondents from Chinese coastal towns in the poll said they had seen a dugong in the previous five years.

The dugong, regarded as the gentlest creature in the water, was probably more susceptible to overfishing and shipping mishaps because of its leisurely, laid-back behaviour.

Even though it still exists everywhere in the world, it is still in danger.

The dugong’s probable extinction in China is a terrible loss, according to Prof. Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the study’s co-author.

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All historical information regarding the locations of dugongs previously discovered in China was examined by scientists from ZSL and the Chinese Academy of Science.

They discovered that since 2000, there had been no confirmed sightings by scientists.

In order to find out when locals had last seen one, the researchers also used citizen science to survey 788 community members in various coastal districts.

On average, locals said it had been 23 years since they had last seen a dugong. In the previous five years, just 3 people had witnessed one.

Some people think that because it resembles the manatee in look and behaviour while being distinguished by a whale-like tail, it served as a model for the mermaids described in old maritime tales.

Unfortunately, because of its habitat near the coast in China, the mammal was prey to hunters in the 20th century, who targeted the animal for its skin, bones, and meat.

According to the UN Environment Programme, 7% of seagrass habitat is lost globally each year as a result of climate change, unrestricted fishing, coastal expansion, and industrial and agricultural pollutants.

The species is listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species despite existing in 37 other tropical regions of the world, primarily the shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans.

Signings of a new UN marine pact are currently taking place in New York, which will protect 30% of the oceans on Earth. 

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