Dawdling Dugong Captivates Onlookers at Redcliffe Jetty

dugong Redcliffe Jetty

The rare sighting of a dugong was an unexpected treat for locals and visitors at Redcliffe Jetty, who excitedly watched as the sea cow treated them to an extended display of its presence, gracefully navigating the sheltered waters close to the shore.

Dugongs, often referred to as “sea cows,” are close relatives of manatees and possess a similarly rounded physique, though they are distinguished by their dolphin-like tails.

Steve Ferrier, a dedicated volunteer at the Redcliffe Visitor Information Centre, said that the gentle giant was in the area for an impressive three hours, spending most of its time beneath the water’s surface, gracefully going back and forth by the jetty.

As word spread, the initial group of enthusiasts swelled as passersby from Redcliffe Parade and beyond were drawn to the scene. At its peak, the crowd reached around 50 people. 

Unlike their freshwater-dwelling manatee cousins, dugongs exclusively inhabit marine environments. Known for their peaceful grazing on seagrasses in the coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, dugongs play a vital role in maintaining aquatic ecosystems.

These gentle giants spend the majority of their lives either alone or in pairs, occasionally gathering in larger groups. With the ability to remain submerged for up to six minutes before resurfacing, dugongs utilise their tails to maintain a stationary position with their heads above water for breathing.

In Australia, dugongs occupy habitats ranging from Western Australia’s Shark Bay to the iconic Moreton Bay, extending even further north to Queensland.

The Australian dugong population is estimated at around 80,000, with approximately 14,000 found off the coast of Queensland. Classified as a “threatened” species, dugongs are protected within the waters of Moreton Bay.

Regrettably, dugongs face numerous threats, most significantly the loss of their natural habitats. Human activities such as urbanisation, agriculture, and industrialization contribute to increased siltation and nutrient levels, leading to the degradation of seagrass beds—their primary food source.

In response to these challenges, the Moreton Bay Regional Council, an active participant in the South East Queensland Water Quality Management Strategy partnership, is taking extensive measures to enhance the health of Moreton Bay and, by extension, the habitat of the cherished dugongs.

As stewards of this unique marine ecosystem, the community continues to work towards the preservation of these captivating creatures for generations to come.

Published 14-Aug-2023