Photo by: Vardhan Patankar

Photo by: Vardhan Patankar

Dr. Elrika D’Souza, a researcher from Nature Conservation Foundation , has been studying the ecology and conservation of Dugongs (Dugong dugon) in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago for several years for her Doctoral degree which she completed in 2015. Recently, she and her team combined historical and current data from the archipelago to estimate long term dugong occupancy trends. The results showed a 60% decline in numbers in the last 20 years. Surprisingly, they found that remaining dugong populations, now scattered and restricted to a few sheltered bays and channels, were not limited by the availability of seagrass, their primary food, but due to anthropogenic factors such as hunting, and strangulation in fishing gill-nets. By prioritizing sea grass meadow sites based on their use and occupancy by dugongs, D’Souza and team aim to monitor those sites to aid the Department of Environment and Forests to conserve the remaining population.