A baby dugong recently became Thailand’s latest viral sensation, after images and videos of her cuddling with human marine biologists began circulating all over the ‘net.
She was first spotted by the locals near the beaches of Koh Poda in late April this year. It was suspected that she had accidentally been separated from her mother and ended up following a boat that was heading towards the area.
Estimated to be around six months old now, the cutesy mammal has since been called Marium. The name has an Arabic origin (Mariam) which translates to ‘lady of the sea’.
After the discovery, Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources Thailand relocated her to another southern island Koh Libong, where there is quite a sizeable dugong population living off the coast. While she doesn’t seem to like swimming with the rest of the dugong clan, she quite enjoys the care and attention given by the veterinarians and volunteers who are looking after her.
Often confused with manatees due to their nature as slow-moving sea herbivores (some might call them sea cows), dugongs are in fact a different breed. Aside from physical characteristics such as tails (dugongs have tail flukes with pointed projections), nails (dugongs don’t have nails), and nostrils (the dugong’s nostrils are placed further back in the head), they differ in social life too. While manatees tend to rock with the flock, dugongs sometimes like their alone time.
For now, Marium swims freely around Point Dugong, a popular spot for sightseeing in Koh Libong. There are veterinarians and marine biologists on duty to monitor the dugong’s progress. Although free to swim with some of the other dugongs around the area, Marium seems to enjoy the care she receives from the humans.
When not cuddling close with the vets taking care of her, she likes to linger on the underside of the canoes. Some say she does that because it reminds her of the mother. For the time being, Marium is being fed with a diet of seagrass and around two litres of milk every day. Authorities said that they will continue with Marium’s rehabilitation for the next six months, until she is ready to be released back in the wild ocean.
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