July 11, 2012

Children’s Book Helping To Save Dugongs

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A new children's book is designed to get kids interested in saving dugongs from multiple threats, including coastal development, climate change and environmental pollution.

Dr. Mariana Fuentes, a marine biologist, wrote a book intended to take readers into the secret world of "Dhyum," which is a real dugong living in the Torres Strait.

In "Dhyum the Dugong", the author takes the reader on a journey through the dugong's life, from how they are born to how we can help protect them.

“The Torres Strait is known as the ℠dugong capital of the world´ because the seas have the greatest population of these wonderful marine mammals,” Dr. Fuentes said in a press release. “By telling readers about the lives of dugongs — such as what they eat, where they live and what harms them — the book aims to make young Australians more aware of the sea mammal and its vulnerabilities.”

The author encourages children to learn about dugongs through to book, so the next generation can help look after them.

“Readers will then understand better how we can protect them. For example, knowing that seagrass — the staple food of dugongs — dies off when water is too polluted, can encourage the community to keep the ocean clean,” Dr Fuentes said in the release.

She said current research into dugongs and how the scientific findings are being used help local Torres Strait Islander communities develop their conservation plans.

“By explaining that dugongs, like Dhyum himself, which was satellite-tagged in 2010, to inform rangers and scientists how and where they move, I wanted to demonstrate the various ways dugongs can be studied," she said in the release. “The story includes information on how dugongs move from Torres Strait to Papua New Guinea, so now communities in both countries are working together to help protect them."

She said one of the main reasons she wrote the book was to help children appreciate how science can be used to look after endangered animals.

The book will be used by the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) rangers as part of their environmental education program.

“Dugongs have great cultural and social importance to Australia´s Indigenous peoples living near the Great Barrier Reef and in Torres Strait,” Dr Fuentes said in the release. “It is vital that the coming generation realizes how a loss in dugong numbers could spell problems for both marine ecosystems and for Indigenous communities.”