Delicate marine mammals dugongs officially declared extincttext_fields
Dugong, a delicate marine mammal in the cetacean family, has been declared functionally extinct in China. Researchers of the Zoological Society of London have found "strong evidence" that the species have disappeared from the region.
They have lived in China for centuries. Scientists wrote that they will welcome any possible future evidence that dugongs might survive in China, reported Newsweek. The study however reasoned with evidence of "probable regional loss of a charismatic marine megafaunal species."
These creatures are the likely inspiration for mermaid legends due to their appearance.
Scientists have been talking to fishing communities across China about dugongs. There have been no dugong sightings or strandings reported in the region since 2008. There was no evidence of dugongs in Chinese waters.
The gentle mammal is found in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans' coastal waters. Due to their seagrass diet, they are fondly called sea cows.
Experts considered the possibility that dugongs might have migrated north along the coast due to human activities and climate change. This theory was not supported because the lack of seagrass beds north will make it hard for them to survive outside their usual habitat.
Co-author of the study Samuel Turvey said dugong's extinction will have a major negative impact on the health of seagrass systems. Experts are anticipating knock-on effects in the local ecosystem.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had listed dugongs as a vulnerable species. The Chinese government also declared them a protected species in 1988. Experts have called for their status to be upgraded to critically endangered and evidence-based, urgent, conservation efforts.
The study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.