PUTTALAM, Sri Lanka — Samith Fernando runs a tour boat service in Puttalam Lagoon, a scenic spot about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital. In 2017, he says, he spotted one of the most elusive sea mammals that inhabit Sri Lanka’s waters: dugongs (Dugong dugon). It wasn’t just a single dugong, either. Fernando says he saw a family of five before they quickly disappeared in the murky waters. He never saw any dugongs again after that, despite operating boat tours daily, and that lone encounter remains deeply etched in his mind. A dugong body found in March, a possible victim of blast fishing. Image courtesy of Ranil P. Nanayakkara. Then in March this year, a new sighting was reported: a dead dugong had washed up dead in a different part of the lagoon. Two weeks later, there was another dead dugong. Fernando says he didn’t go to see either, fearful they were from the family he’d spotted four years earlier. Both were about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and hence considered juveniles, about 7 years old, says Ranil Nanayakkara of Biodiversity Education and Research (BEAR). Dugongs are thought to live to about 70 years in the wild, which means these two died of unnatural causes, he says. “The first dugong could be a victim of fish net entanglement, but the second one is definitely a victim of blast fishing, evident by the blood strains coming out of its eyes and nose,” Nanayakkara, a member of the IUCN/SSC…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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