|Almost two decades of research in East Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) suggests that dugongs (Dugong dugon), which were once
plentiful in the region, are now reduced to scattered remnant populations, probably totaling no more than 500 animals.
The near-shore zone throughout the Western Indian Ocean is highly productive and subject to high levels of artisinal exploitation and development. This is particularly so for developing countries, where coastal resources provide for 'wealth creation' and a cheap and easy way to feed increasing populations. In many states, economic priorities and social upheaval have led to massive human demographic changes and environmental degradation including the destruction of sea-grass and coral reefs and a reduction in coastal zone productivity. Dugongs are entirely dependent on such sea-grass and reef resources. Historically, Western Indian Ocean dugong distribution extended from Somalia in the north, through Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and further east off the islands of the Comoros, Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius. Recent surveys indicate that most dugong populations in the region have suffered a steep decline since the 1960s.
We currently focus our work in the Bazaruto Archipelago which now supports possibly the only viable dugong population in the Western Indian Ocean.