Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) expresses hope that the communities especially those at the coastal area in Sim-Sim, would cooperate and help with conservation efforts towards the dugong species. Pix courtesy of Sabah Wildlife Department.

SANDAKAN: An unexpected visitor in the form of a dugong greeted folks of a coastal village here, this morning.

Sim-Sim's residents alerted the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) upon discovering the marine mammal stranded in the shallow waters at 8.30am.

“Our department has received the report of the dugong, protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.

“We have gone to the ground with our Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) to monitor the situation and have made early discussions with the Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s marine unit, the Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI).

“The university said they will send researchers to collect data on the presence of dugong. So we will wait for them to come,” said Sandakan wildlife officer Hussein Muin, adding the animal is still stranded at Sim-Sim waters as of now.

He also expressed hope that the communities especially those at the coastal area in Sim-Sim, would cooperate and help with conservation efforts towards the species, and not disturb the mammal until marine experts arrive to carry out studies.

The university’s BMRI director Prof Dr Rossita Shapawi clarified that they have heard and seen information circulated on the dugong’s presence there a few days ago, but were only informed about it officially now.

“Stranding (of marine life in shallow waters or beaches) is normal for we have seen it with dolphins before, but when it comes to dugong, it is quite rare.

“One of our researchers assisted by students will go down there soon, likely on Monday to observe and collect data on the species,” she said, explaining that the conservation jurisdiction do not fall below them but the Wildlife Department.

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