DUGONGS KILLED: Traditional owners enraged after dugongs killed south of Mackay.
DUGONGS KILLED: Traditional owners enraged after dugongs killed south of Mackay. Julien Willem

Outrage as two dugong slaughtered at sanctuary

A PAIR of near-extinct dugong have been slaughtered and taken from an ecological reserve in Clairview, enraging the traditional owners and local residents.

It is alleged about four men slaughtered two dugong on Saturday afternoon.

They are understood to be of indigenous descent but not of the Koinmerburra/Koinjmal people, the traditional owners of the land.

Elder Samarla Deshong said her mob have a strict moratorium on no-take of dugongs or turtles that has been in place for the last 15 years.

She confirmed no permits had recently been allowed, and the take of the dugong were not authorised.

"It's not good... and they [poachers] don't understand that we're just trying to protect them," she said.

"We want [the government] to start enforcing the fines, which aren't big enough.

"They need to go to court, they really need to be made an example of... we have to band together and start enforcing it a lot more."

The Great Barrier Marine Park Authority has confirmed they received reports of two dugong being speared by a number of men about 4.30pm on July 21.

A spokesman said the authority will investigate the matter and determine if an offence has occurred.

"Under Native Title, Traditional Owners can legally take dugong and turtle from their traditional sea country," he said. "However, illegal poaching is serious and any reports are fully investigated.

"We have previously received similar reports of take in that area, but on those occasions there was insufficient evidence to substantiate those claims."

GBRMPA are seeking further information on the location and nature of the incident to determine if the alleged take of species was in accordance with Native Title or was illegal.

Reef Catchments spokeswoman Cass Hayward said the recent incident could deter the typically shy dugong from returning to the bay.

"When dugong are taken without special permission, dugong populations are put at risk," she said.

About dugongs

  • Dugongs, also known as sea cows, can live to be about 70-years-old, weigh up to 420kg, and reach lengths or more than 3 metres.
  • Female dugongs reach breeding age between about age 6 and 17, and for males this is between age 4 and 16.
  • The placid mammal, which must surface to breathe, have poor eyesight but very good hearing.
  • Dugongs find and grasp seagrass using the coarse sensitive bristles that cover their upper lip and fleshy snout.
  • The Queensland Government's Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 lists dugong as 'vulnerable to extinction'.
  • Under section 211 of the Native Title Act 1993, native title holders may undertake traditional use of marine resources in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • The Koinmerburra/Koinjmal people have had a moratorium of no-take of dugong and turtle for the last 15 years, and in that time have permitted the hunt of one turtle for a highly significant cultural event.
  • Boat strikes, the loss of seagrass habitat, accidentally being caught in fish nets and illegal poaching are threats to dugongs.

Sources: GBRMPA, Department of Environment.



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