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Marine census planned for coastal waters on March 23

By Philip Mwakio | Published Mon, March 20th 2017 at 00:00, Updated March 19th 2017 at 20:15 GMT +3
 Kenya navy speed boats patrol Lamu Indian Ocean waters on Friday,27th November,2015 evening in Lamu County. This follows tight security measures at the lamu Island during this year's 15th Edition of the annual Lamu cultural festivals.PHOTO BY MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD

The Kenya Wildlife Service will conduct an aerial census for marine mammals from March 23 to March 27.

KWS spokesperson Paul Gatitu said the exercise will be launched at the Mombasa Marine National Park on March 23.

"The survey will focus on dugongs in the area between Diani and Vanga in the South Coast and Ungwana Bay and Kiunga in the North Coast," he said.

Dugong, a marine mammal falls in the family of Sirenia, which includes species like manatees and the sea cow.

"Dugongs are threatened worldwide by loss and degradation of sea grass, fishing pressure, indigenous use, hunting and coastal pollution. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed them as vulnerable to extinction," he said.

Their population has been declining rapidly in Kenya as indicated from aerial surveys. Initial surveys indicate that 500 of them were sighted off the South Coast of Kenya in 1967.

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Before 1961, populations were defined as plenty in Lamu although in some sites like Chiamboni (in Somalia), Formosa Bay and Malindi they were rarely seen.

"The decline was explained as gradual, because they were hunted for food and fats using spears, accidentally caught on nets or targeted on shark nets. Later, accidental netting of dugongs was reported compared to hunting, totaling at least 12 each year in Lamu," added Mr Gatitu.

He further explained that aerial surveys conducted in 1973, 1975, 1980, 1994 and 1996 indicated a sharp downward decline in their population.

In 1994 and 1996, 10 and six individuals respectively were counted during aerial surveys in Lamu, indicating a sharp decline.

The six included a herd of four individuals comprising one calf in the Siyu channel and two lone animals near Manda Toto Island.

The Kenyan dugong population was estimated to be approximately 50 at that time. Dugong populations in the North and South coasts of Kenya are two discrete populations.


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