Lifestyle

Dugong health hit by floods

Dugong researchers head out to the Sea World vessel moored at Burrum Heads.
Dugong researchers head out to the Sea World vessel moored at Burrum Heads. Alistair Brightman

HERVEY Bay's dugongs have fared worse than their Moreton Bay counterparts after the summer floods, a Sea World and University of Queensland survey has found.

Researchers from UQ, Sea World and Taronga Zoo spent the past two weeks catching wild dugongs to survey the health of the populations.

It was the first time the team had carried out its revolutionary capture methods in Hervey Bay, which suffered massive losses to its dugongs after the 1991 floods.

“We've been studying dugongs with UQ for many years, probably 10 years, but it was only four years ago we developed the techniques and processes to be able to lift them (dugongs) out on board and do the work,” said Sea World's director of marine sciences, Trevor Long.

“You've got to remember these are big animals and they're very sensitive animals. We've got to be very, very cognisant of their welfare and caring about our approach.”

UQ marine mammal researcher Dr Janet Lanyon said the 1991 floods showed that the Hervey Bay dugongs were more vulnerable than the Moreton Bay population because their feeding grounds were closer to the coastline.

“The seagrass beds in Hervey Bay copped the full brunt of the floods up there in 1991, and the dugong habitat was virtually lost because the seagrass beds were smothered,” she said.

“The beauty of Moreton Bay's feeding area is it's a little removed from the coast – a few kilometres offshore.”

The researchers were pleased to catch several pregnant dugongs, including a whopping 600kg female, in Moreton Bay.

“Catching pregnant females is a really good sign that the population is healthy and that they are reproducing,” Dr Lanyon said.

But as of Wednesday the researchers had not found any pregnant dugongs in Hervey Bay.

“From an observation point of view, we've seen some of the animals here have been in slightly poorer condition than those in Moreton Bay,” Mr Long said.

“We won't know any real details until we get all of the blood work back, but from a physical point of view these animals are certainly thinner.”

Mr Long said the trip would lead to a better understanding of Hervey Bay's less-studied dugongs.

“The good thing is we've got some benchmarking for future assessments,” he said.

“That's the best thing, otherwise you never know where you're at. You don't know whether they're getting better or worse.”

Mr Long said the results of blood toxicology tests, which would take several months, would reveal any impacts on the dugongs from pollutants or heavy metals washed into the bays by the floods.

Dugong facts:

Dugongs are highly migratory and are found in tropical waters from the Qld/NSW border in the east to Shark Bay in WA.

They are also known as “sea cows” because they graze on seagrass.

Dugongs are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act of 1999.

Kat the “lonely dugong” has been living alone in the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, an Australian territory near Christmas Island, for the past nine years.

Topics:  dugongs, hervey bay, sea world, uq


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Demolition crew tears woman's home down while she's inside

A Coolum resident has found herself stranded in her own home after demolition crews arrived at her unit block and started tearing down the asbestos filled building around her. She was told to stay inside as men in bio-hazard suits worked just outside her back door.

Workplace Health and Safety investigation into demolition site

Treasurer supports plans for medicinal cannabis hub

Adam Benjamin of Medifarm wants to supply medicinal cannabis and hopes to transform the canelands of the Sunshine Coast into Potlands. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Curtis Pitt has positive response

Bomb scare accused to face drug trial in Supreme Court

DISPOSAL: A bomb squad officer investigates the discovery of a device at Peregian Beach on April 20.

David John Ogden was allegedly found with 28g of meth in July

Latest deals and offers

Dog squad and POLAIR helicopter assist in Coolum arrest

AROUND 3.15pm on Sunday, May 22 officers from the Sunshine Coast Dog Squad located a stolen Toyota Camry in the Coolum Beach area.

Demolition crew tears woman's home down while she's inside

A Coolum resident has found herself stranded in her own home after demolition crews arrived at her unit block and started tearing down the asbestos filled building around her. She was told to stay inside as men in bio-hazard suits worked just outside her back door.

Workplace Health and Safety investigation into demolition site

Treasurer supports plans for medicinal cannabis hub

Adam Benjamin of Medifarm wants to supply medicinal cannabis and hopes to transform the canelands of the Sunshine Coast into Potlands. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Curtis Pitt has positive response

Bomb scare accused to face drug trial in Supreme Court

DISPOSAL: A bomb squad officer investigates the discovery of a device at Peregian Beach on April 20.

David John Ogden was allegedly found with 28g of meth in July

Aggression the wrong expression

News

A series of forums will be held educating against violent behaviour.

The best retro movies of the week? May 27 - June 3

Gregory Peck Photo Contributed

This week TV fan get to see Tom Cruise in a 1980s classics

Barnaby Joyce talks Johnny Depp's dogs in Tweed

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce talks about Johnny Depp's dogs Pistol and Boo...

Billy Slater talks Origin Team

Queensland Origin great Billy Slater.

Queensland Origin great Billy Slater talks about this years team and his return to...

Road rage caught on Dashcam

Attack with a baseball bat caught on Dashcam

Video of a violent road rage incident in Orange last December.

Own Sunshine Coast property? You’re about to make money

UP AND UP: Property owners are likely to win from rent and price increases but tenants and first home buyers might not be so happy. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily

Good new for property owners, not so good for buyers and tenants.

Sale nears on last large block of land in Coolum

The 43.37ha property on South Coolum Rd has sold.

South Coolum Rd property to be land banked