Four dugongs fitted with satellite tags off Abu Dhabi

by Staff Reporter | June 11th, 2012

Scientists at the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD) are now actively tracking the movement and habitat use of four dugongs after successfully tagging them with satellite transmitters off the UAE’s Marine Protected Area of Al Yasat Island and Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve.

Data received so far from the satellites is being analysed by EAD. The dugongs are foraging within a radius of 10 to 15 km from the site they were captured and released

The tagging was part of an overall effort to better understand dugong migration and movement patterns in Abu Dhabi waters.

These two sites were selected in particular for their close proximity to the Qatar border, in order to better understand dugong migration within the Arabian Gulf and to gain vital information that will enhance regional cooperation on the conservation of dugongs.

The data collected will also help EAD inform and guide the Government of Abu Dhabi in its efforts to set the environmental regulatory and policy framework needed to continue protecting both the local population of this globally endangered species and the fragile marine ecosystem which surrounds the Emirate’s coastline.

Traveling 6-9 Kms per day
The tagging of the dugongs was undertaken in collaboration with Charles Darwin University, Australia, one of the world’s leading institutions in the field of dugong research. Data received so far from the satellites is being analysed by EAD. The dugongs are foraging within a radius of 10 to 15 km from the site they were captured and released. The average distance travelled by the dugongs per day was calculated to be between 6.2 and 8.8 km.
Skin samples
“We tracked the dugongs by helicopter and then signalled to our team, who were in the water on a small inflatable boat and two support boats. When the dugongs swam up to the surface in shallow water, our team dove in to capture the dugong and attached a transmitter on the tail of each of the animals. They also measured each dugong and safely took a small skin sample for DNA testing before releasing each of them back into the water,” said Thabit Al Abdessalaam, executive director, terrestrial and marine biodiversity sector, EAD.

“The results from this study will help us better understand their migration patterns across borders with neighbouring countries and will further facilitate and enhance existing regional cooperation in the conservation,” he added.

 

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