On the 22nd of October, the day was bright and promising. The C3 Philippines Field Team travelled an hour by motorbike through a long and dusty dirt road, with herds of cows and goats under the blazing sun. We were on our way to conduct preliminary surveys at one of our field sites, and I never imagined that it would turn out to be a remarkable day.
I was able to spot two dugong for the first time! I wanted to share the overwhelming emotion I felt to those who already glimpsed this amazing mammal, and to those who have not seen one yet – a mixture of amazement, bliss and astonishment enveloped me when I spotted them. I was so dumbfounded that I even forgot to take pictures to show to my friends, and I nearly dove into the water to see them closely. I couldn’t help giggling as if I just saw inspiration. I kept praying that they would surface again to see them once more and they didn’t let me down. It was as if they wanted to say “Here we are!”
I was struck with love at first sight. I’m overwhelmed with the thought that I am one of the fortunate people who’ve witnessed a creature listed as endangered, swimming just an arm’s length away. How I wish my friends could have seen them too and felt the same way as I did.
But behind those positive feelings lies the sad thought— would the next generation still be able to see what I saw? Would they experience the same feelings I felt?
These questions bug me because of alarming news in the Philippines related to the threats faced by this gentle marine mammal. Dugong populations have declined dramatically and they are listed by IUCN as vulnerable to extinction.
What should we do? What can we do? It’s not too late to save these mammals. Let’s practice self-discipline and be part of conservation efforts and awareness campaigns to save dugongs!