Dugongs (Dugang dugon) have been major consumers in the seagrass systems of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, but are threatened with extirpation over most of their geographic range. Current knowledge of dugong behavior, supplemented by extrapolation from published material
on the related family Trichechidae (manatees), is discussed with the objective of providing guidance for dugong conservation and management programs. Where dugong populations persist, the tendency of dugongs to aggregate and to repeatedly graze preferred sites increases vulnerability to hunting
and can have major impact on seagrasses. Frequented sites are ecotonal, about points and on shoal areas near shore. Dugongs avoid enclosed bays. Where tidal range is ≈1 m and there is no harassment, dugong activity is arhythmic; where feeding grounds are intertidal. and when hunting
or disturbance is frequent, diel patterns in movement, feeding, and habitat choice develop. Routine surfacing at intervals of less than 2 minutes makes dugongs vulnerable to hunting and to injury from boats. Calves swim above cows except at the surface and depend on close association with
cows for 18 months or more. The survival of orphaned calves is unlikely. Most aspects of social organization remain to be clarified but conservation and management plans should allow for the possibility that tradition may be important in efficient habitat utilization. It is suggested that
dugongs could be exceptionally vulnerable to the capture myopathy stress syndrome which has been described in ungulates.
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