Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Sirenia Dugongidae

Scientific Name: Dugong dugon
Species Authority: (Müller, 1776)
Common Name(s):
English Dugong, Sea Cow
French Dugong
Spanish Dugon

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bcd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Marsh, H.
Reviewer(s): Reynolds III, J.E. & Powell, J.A. (Sirenia Red List Authority)
The dugong’s range spans at least 48 countries and an estimated 140,000 km of coastline. We have used two relatively crude relative indices of extent of occurrence: (1) length of coastline, and (2) area of continental shelf with a depth of et al. 2002) plus additional literature published since that time (see Tables 1.1 and 1.2 in Supplementary Material). The results of this synthesis are summarized in Table 2.1 (see Supplementary Material). This synthesis indicates that the dugong is declining or extinct in at least a third of its range, of unknown status in about half its range and possibly stable in the remainder – mainly the remote coasts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The only reference site is the urban coast of Queensland where the most robust quantitative data on population trends are available and a 40 year time series of catch rates in nets set for bather protection indicates that the CPUE in 1999 was only 3% of that in 1962 (Marsh et al. 2005). This CPUE is considered an index of dugong decline in the region from all causes during this period. This decline and modern aerial survey estimates of dugong abundance were used to backcast the population in the region in the early 1960s (which would be expected to have been lower than that at the time of European settlement as a cottage commercial industry for dugong oil had existed at several locations along this coast since the 1850s. The extrapolation suggested that the region supported 72,000 (95% CI 31,000, 165,000) dugongs in the early 1960s compared with an estimated 4,220 (95% CI 2,360, 8,360) dugongs in the mid 1990s. The seagrass habitat in the region is currently insufficient to support 72,000 dugongs, a result which suggests that the habitat had also declined (unlikely) or that the shark net CPUE has overestimated the decline (see Marsh et al. 2005). If the magnitude of this decline was robust and typical of the entire range of the dugong, the dugong would qualify for being classified as Critically Endangered at a global scale.

As summarized in Table 2.1, the major causes of the dugong’s decline along the urban coast of Queensland are still present in most of the dugong’s range as follows: gill netting 87-99%, subsistence hunting 85-98%, human settlement 82-85%, agricultural pollution 80-89%. The magnitude of these threats is likely to be greater in most other parts of the dugong’s range than in Queensland. The Queensland coast supports a low human population density relative to most other parts of the dugong’s range and has a well developed system of marine parks and pro-active management. There is also anecdotal evidence that the area of occupancy of the dugong has declined in many parts of its range, especially along the coasts of east African and India where anecdotal evidence suggests that it is at high risk of extinction.

Even in the regions where we have classified the status of the dugong as stable, this classification is unconfirmed. Much of the northern Western Australian and some of the Northern Territory coast has never been surveyed for dugongs and there are no accurate estimates of the Indigenous harvest. The sustainability of this harvest must be questioned as it has been shown to be unsustainable by population modeling in remote parts of Queensland and Torres Strait (Heinsohn et al. 2004, Marsh et al. 2004).

Genetic information on dugong stocks is limited. Recent work based on mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite markers (Brenda McDonald, unpublished data) indicates that the Australian dugong population is not panmictic. There is clear evidence of two maternal lineages, which have a geographical basis apparently reflecting the existence of the Torres Strait land bridge between Australia and PNG, despite the flooding of this land bridge some six thousand years ago. The Australian dugong population still has a fair degree of genetic diversity indicating that recent losses are not yet reflected in the genetic makeup of the population. There is some evidence of gene flow between dugongs in Australia and Eastern Indonesia.

To date, there has been little effective management intervention to reduce anthropogenic impacts on the dugong, apart from legislative protection which is almost ubiquitous throughout its range. Management plans have been developed for some 22-24% of the range (mainly in Australia) but are in place in only 18-22% of the range. The dugong is protected by marine protected areas in 22-23% of its range (again mostly in Australia) (see Table 1.3 in Supplementary Material).

Because of the uncertainty associated with the assessment of the status of the dugong both on the Queensland coast based on the CPUE data (Marsh et al. 2005) and the rest of its range, we suggest that the classification should remain as Vulnerable A2bcd.
For further information about this species, see 6909_Dugong_dugon.pdf.
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Previously published Red List assessments:
2006 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)
1982 Vulnerable (V)
1965 Status inadequately known-survey required or data sought

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Coastal and Island waters between East Africa and Vanuatu between latitudes of about 27° North and South of Equator. See Marsh et al. (2002).
Countries occurrence:
Australia; Bahrain; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Comoros; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; India (Andaman Is., Laccadive Is., Nicobar Is.); Indonesia; Japan (Nansei-shoto); Jordan; Kenya; Madagascar; Malaysia; Mayotte; Mozambique; New Caledonia; Palau; Papua New Guinea (Bismarck Archipelago); Philippines; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Solomon Islands; Somalia; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Timor-Leste; United Arab Emirates; Vanuatu; Viet Nam; Yemen (Socotra)
Regionally extinct:
Mauritius (Rodrigues - Native); Taiwan, Province of China
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Indian Ocean – eastern; Indian Ocean – western; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – western central
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Total population size is unknown. See Marsh et al. (2002).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:See Marsh et al. (2002).
Movement patterns:Full Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): See Marsh et al. (2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed on CITES Appendix I.

Classifications [top]

9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
suitability: Suitable  
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.1. Formal education
4. Education & awareness -> 4.2. Training
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level
6. Livelihood, economic & other incentives -> 6.1. Linked enterprises & livelihood alternatives

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.1. Housing & urban areas
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.3. Shipping lanes
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

6. Human intrusions & disturbance -> 6.1. Recreational activities
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

9. Pollution -> 9.2. Industrial & military effluents -> 9.2.1. Oil spills
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.4. Type Unknown/Unrecorded
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.4. Storms & flooding
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.1. Taxonomy
1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
2. Conservation Planning -> 2.1. Species Action/Recovery Plan
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Baillie, J. and Groombridge, B. (comps and eds). 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

De Iongh, H., Kiswara, W., Kustiawan, W., and Loth, P. 2007. A review of research on the interactions between dugongs (Dugong dugon Müller 1776) and intertidal seagrass beds in Indonesia. Hydrobiologia 591: 73-83.

Groombridge, B. (ed.). 1994. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Heinsohn, R., Lacey, R.C., Lindenmayer, D.B., Marsh, H., Kwan, D. and Lawler, I.R. 2004. Unsustainable harvest of dugongs in Torres Strait and Cape York (Australia) waters: two case studies using population viability analysis. Animal Conservation 7: 1-9.

IUCN. 1990. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1986. 1986 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1988. IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Marsh, H., De'ath, G., Gribble, N. and Lane, B. 2005. Historical marine population estimates: triggers or targets for conservation? The dugong case study.

Marsh, H., Penrose, H., Eros, C. and Hugues, J. 2002. Dugong Status Report and Action Plans for Countries and Territories. Report Series. Early Warning and Assessment , United Nations Environment Program UNEP/DEWA/RS.02-1.

Scott, P. 1965. Section XIII. Preliminary List of Rare Mammals and Birds. The Launching of a New Ark. First Report of the President and Trustees of the World Wildlife Fund. An International Foundation for saving the world's wildlife and wild places 1961-1964, pp. 15-207. Collins, London, UK.

Thornback, J. and Jenkins, M. 1982. The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book. Part 1: Threatened mammalian taxa of the Americas and the Australasian zoogeographic region (excluding Cetacea). IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

UNTAET. 2000. Regulation No. 2000/19 on Protected Places. United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

World Wildlife Fund Eastern African Marine Ecoregion. 2004. Towards a Western Indian Ocean Dugong Conservation Strategy: The Status of Dugongs in the Western Indian Ocean Region and Priority Conservation Actions. Dar es Salam, Tanazania.

Citation: Marsh, H. 2008. Dugong dugon. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T6909A12812709. . Downloaded on 05 October 2015.
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