Can’t get enough of baby dugong Mariam’s little blubbery face?
The young sea cow who catapulted to fame after being orphaned than rescued is now being live streamed around the clock by marine officials via six cameras. A seventh is pointed at her new friend, another young dugong recently rescued and dubbed Jamil. The cameras show land, beach and sea views at Point Dugong. But don’t expect to spot young Mariam right away as she does have some territory to roam.
Marine department chief Jatuporn Buruspat late last month visited Point Dugong, a conservation and sightseeing area on southern Koh Libong, to oversee the installment of cameras and gearing to power the dugong cam.
“We’re collaborating with TOT today to install sufficient Wi-Fi … in order to be able to live stream Mariam to the whole world. We can watch her behavior, how officials take care of her as well as keep her caretakers motivated. That’s the most important thing,” Jatuporn told reporters.
Will dugong fever sweep the nation as pandamania ruled the land years back during the Panda Channel craze?
Better yet, will it be too intrusive on the young creature’s development?
Reached for a comment, marine photographer and environmentalist Sirachai Arunrugstichai said he doesn’t believe it will disturb Mariam’s life and is a good way to hold the creature’s caretakers accountable.
“I think its a smart move. The public can care for the dugong to a certain degree and 24-hour surveillance could repel people who might act like an arse,” he told us.
Regardless, reactions on social media appeared positive across the board.
People first spotted the dugong on April 29 in Ao Thung Bay. Though officials returned her to sea twice, she kept swimming back to shore and was seen latching her fins onto boats to swim beside – a behavior which officials said is likely because she wasn’t weaned from her mother and was using the boats as a substitute.
But it was a drone-shot photo of a volunteer cuddling her and published in National Geographic Thailand in the beginning of this month, that propelled Mariam to fame. Since then, the cuddly cousin to the manatee became a superstar.
The dugong is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which means it is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve.
In Thailand, there are only about 300 dugongs left due to depleted food sources, overtourism, plastic pollution and overfishing. The vegetarian sea cows are often cut to pieces by boat propellers as they like to drift and float in the currents looking for food, if fishing nets don’t get them first.
The stream is available here from the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.