SANDAKAN: With more people flocking to see the two stranded dugongs, Kampung Sim-Sim residents are now worried over the safety of the marine mammals.
They are afraid that some might have bad intentions or potentially harm the dugongs, which are listed as totally protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997.
It was reported that Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) first received a report that a dugong was spotted at the shallow waters of the coastal village on Friday morning.
This morning, SWD director Augustine Tuuga said two mammals were sighted there based on the latest report.
“Our village has become a hot spot in the past week since the (first) dugong's presence. This is probably the first time the marine mammal appeared here.
“However, this species only appears during high tide (and is not there all the time).
“We are worried there might be some irresponsible people who want to capture this animal,” said a 59-year-old villager who wanted to be known as Chu.
Augustine said wildlife officers were monitoring the situation as they wait for the research team from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) to arrive and conduct their studies, scheduled tomorrow.
He said the department needed UMS help to assess the animals' condition before determining the next course of action.
He added that unless the dugongs are ill or injured, SWD plans to let them be, as they are not in immediate danger.
"(We will) let them (remain in the waters) there. But (we do) worry that people may harm them, or they are accidentally hit by passing boats," he said, adding that SWD has called on the public not to disturb the dugongs.
Meanwhile, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said normally, stranded marine wildlife such as dolphins are assisted back out to sea – unless the animals are injured, wherein they would be nursed back to health.
Masidi stressed that everyone needs to be proactive and not "pass the buck" when it comes to protecting the species.
Listed under Schedule 1 of the Enactment, dugongs are in the same totally protected category with Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards as well as green turtles and hawksbill turtles.