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Dugong survey ongoing at Seychelles' Aldabra Atoll using drones

Victoria, Seychelles | May 5, 2024, Sunday @ 09:15 in Environment » GENERAL | By: Sharon Ernesta | Views: 5962
Dugong survey ongoing at Seychelles' Aldabra Atoll using drones

The ongoing project is being implemented by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF). (SIF) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) - A first-ever lagoon-wide drone survey of the waters around the Aldabra Atoll in Seychelles using drones to capture images of dugongs, including juveniles, has started.

The ongoing project is being implemented by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which manages the atoll, in order to monitor the dugong population and provide data to better inform SIF's decisions on the species' conservation.

Dugongs - sometimes called sea cows - are shy and gentle creatures that survive solely on a diet of seagrass. Early settlers on the islands and sailors hunted and slaughtered them for their meat and oil. Today, they are a protected species under Seychelles law.

"Initial analysis of the collected images revealed 19 dugong sightings. The largest group captured in a single photograph included six individuals, featuring two juveniles. Overall, juveniles were observed with one or two adults on more than three occasions. However, ongoing analysis is still in progress, and the final estimate has not been firmly established as of yet," said the chief executive of SIF, Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley.

Fleischer-Dogley added that by the end of this project, SIF aims to provide new information on the dugong population estimate and provide valuable insights to guide SIF's decision-making, government authorities, and conservation managers in the region to strengthen dugong conservation efforts. 

Furthermore, the project outputs will support Seychelles' commitments under the Convention on Migratory Species and the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs and their Habitats throughout their range.

Aldabra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the habitat for the only known remaining population of dugongs in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean. Classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, dugongs in East Africa are thought to be highly threatened.

SIF's two-year project is being implemented through a Seychelles Climate Change Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) grant. Specialised fixed-wing drones manufactured by Wingtra,a company based in Switzerland, were procured. 

Through this project, the foundation's staff now has capacity in drone piloting, and following the completion of this project, SIF will be exploring options to use drones elsewhere on Aldabra.

The project will end in mid-2024, however, research and monitoring of this mammalian species will continue. 

For this project, the Seychelles Islands Foundation is collaborating with Christophe Cleguer of the James Cook University and Amanda Hodgson of the Edith Cowan University, both based in Australia. 

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Tags: Seychelles Islands Foundation, UNESCO World Heritage Site

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