One dugong has died and authorities are anxiously monitoring the health of another on the Mid North Coast.
It is unclear how long the pair were in the estuary but it may be as long as two weeks. It is extremely rare to see them this far south, as they prefer warmer water.
The most southerly population in Australia is at Moreton Bay, Queensland. So finding these creatures at more than 500km south at Stuarts Point (between Scotts Head and South West Rocks) is a surprise.
The deceased dugong, believed to be a lactating female, has been tethered in the estuary and examined by experts.
The priority now is to determine the age, size and health of the remaining animal.
“This will help give an indication of how to proceed but the water here is too cold long-term for a dugong to survive,” Shona Lorigan, vice president of ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) explained.
ORRCA was alerted to the death of the dugong on Saturday morning and is working closely with various authorities including the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who are the lead agency in the effort to save the remaining animal.
Authorities have been assisted by the local community who have provided information and photos with some sightings indicating the other animal may be a calf.
Ms Lorigan urges the community to call ORRCA’s hotline on 9415 3333 to provide any information.
We need to work out first and foremost what size it is and whether or not it is a fully dependent calf or if it’s much older...rather than speculating as to the way forward.Shona Lorigan, ORRCA
“We are going to have an expert out on a kayak so we can really appreciate what we are trying to deal with.
“We need to work out first and foremost what size it is and whether or not it’s a fully dependent calf that can’t survive without its mother, or if it’s much older...rather than speculating as to the way forward.
“All of our decisions will be based on the best welfare of the animal.”
In January last year a dugong caused a stir when it was found as far south as Merimbula. Read all about it here.