Category of Organisms Marine Mammals
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum/Division Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Sirenia
Family Dugongidae
Genus Dugong
Species dugon
Binomial Name
Dugong dugon
Author Muller, 1776
Common Name Dugong
Local Name Dugong
Size Range
Measurement at birth:length about 3’ 9” (1.15 m) and weight 55-77lb (23-35 kg).  Maximum measurement: length about 11’ (3.3 m), maximum recorded 13’ 6” (4.1 m) and weight 2,200lb (1000 kg)

The Dugong is a marine species, occurring along the coasts of the western Pacific and Indian Oceans, usually in areas where there are abundant seagrasses. Although considered a shallow-water species, Dugongs are occasionally observed in deeper waters, to about 75 feet (23 m).

Ancient interaction
Ipoh's Gua Tambun - Dugong Neolithic Wall Painting
is a 5000-year old wall painting of a dugong, apparently drawn by neolithic peoples, found in Tambun Cave of Ipoh city in the state of Perak, Malaysia. This was discovered by Lt.R.L Rawlings in 1959 while on a routine patrol in the area. This dugong image together with some thirty other images were painted using haematite, a type of red colouring easily available in the area to ancestors of the Orang Asli living in and around Tambun. When seen from above, the top half of a dugong or manatee can appear like that of a human woman. Coupled with the tail fin, this produced an image of what mariners often mistook for an aquatic human--possibly the origin of the mermaid myth.
During the Renaissance and the Baroque eras, dugongs were often exhibited in wunderkammers. They were also presented as Fiji mermaids in sideshows.

In the Bible
The dugong is referred to in the Bible by the phrase "sea cow" in several places in Exodus (for example, 25:5 & 26:14) and in Numbers. Dugong hides may have been used in the construction of the Tabernacle, if dugong is an accurate translation of the biblical animal tachash.

Dugong in captivity
Worldwide, only six dugongs are held in captivity. Two are the featured attraction of Toba Aquarium in Japan; the third, named Gracie, is at Underwater World, Sentosa Island, Singapore; one is in Sea World Indonesia [26] which was saved after being caught by a local fisherman; and the last two (Pig, a 10-year-old male, and Wuru, a four-year-old female) used to live in Sea World on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, but they have been relocated to Sydney Aquarium
Endemic No
Found in Marine Park No
Found in Malaysia Yes
Like all modern sirenians, the dugong has a fusiform body with no dorsal fin or hindlimbs, instead possessing paddle-like forelimbs used to maneuver itself. It is easily distinguished from the manatees by its fluked, dolphin-like tail, but also possesses a unique skull and teeth.
Dugongs are particular about their diets, with certain 'fields' of sea-grass cropped. Dugongs are referred to as 'sea cows' because their diet consists mainly of sea-grass. Unlike manatees, dugongs are exclusively benthic feeders. The muscular snouts of dugongs are more dramatically tapered than those of manatees. Their primary feeding mechanism is uprooting sea-grass by digging furrows in the seafloor with their snouts. Gestation in the Dugong lasts around 13 months, and results in the birth of a single young. The calf is not fully weaned for a further two years, and does not become sexually mature until the age of 8-18, longer than in most other mammals. As a result, despite the longevity of the Dugong, which may live for fifty years or more, females give birth only a few times during their life, and invest considerable parental care in their young.
Status in IUCN Red List Vulnerable (VU)
Status in CITES Species Database I
Other Link(s)
Collection Record