India: New Dugong Conservation Reserve

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The government of India has officially announced the establishment of a Dugong Conservation Reserve.

The reserve is the first initiative of its kind in India and will cover the 448.34 Km² of coastal waters in Palk Bay, Tamil Nadu.

Dugongs are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. However, their population is on the decline due to habitat loss. There are only about 240 individuals estimated to be present in the country, with the majority found in Palk Bay. Palk Bay is shallow and enclosed providing an ideal habitat for dugongs and the the declared reserve area has an estimated 12,250 ha of seagrass beds.

Focused conservation of dugongs will help protect and improve seagrass beds and sequestering more atmospheric carbon. Seagrass beds are also the breeding and feeding grounds for many commercially valuable fishes and marine fauna. Hence, thousands of fisher families directly get benefitted. The coastal communities along Palk Bay understand the need to conserve dugongs and they have been cooperating with the forest department in the conservation efforts.”
Ms. Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary to Government in Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department

The notification comes following an announcement of intent by the Government of Tamil Nadu to establish a reserve to protect dugong and its marine habitats on September 03, 2021. Grassroots NGO OMCAR Foundation, the Wildlife Institute of India and the Tamil Nadu Forest Department have been working to improve dugong conservation and seagrass restoration for over a decade.

The Government of India has been a signatory to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) since 1983 and signatory to the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their Range (CMS Dugong MOU) since 2008. The government of India has since set up a Task Force to investigate issues relating to dugong conservation and implementation of the CMS Dugong MoU, and hosted the CMS 13th Conference of Parties in February 2020.

Read the Full Government Press Release and Notification:

Government Press Release

Full Government Notification