The dugong has been traditionally persecuted by humans throughout much of its range for its meat, hide and oil. Its rather slow movement, large size and dependence on coastal habitats have made the dugong particularly vulnerable to human impacts, while the low reproductive rate, long generation time and high investment in each offspring mean populations can take a long time to recover from any losses (2) (3). Fishing nets have also been a major cause of population decline, as dugongs are unable to hold their breath for more than about 12 minutes and therefore easily drown once entangled (6). In addition, the seagrass ecosystems on which this species depends are highly sensitive to human impacts, such as from mining, trawling and dredging (8).
Dugongs have decreased in number throughout their range to the extent that in some areas only relict populations remain, but a significant stronghold still persists in Australia (6) (8). Even here, however, these animals are under threat from fishing nets, habitat loss from the silting of sea grass beds, pollution, boat traffic and illegal hunting (6).