Rapid Assessment of Dugongs and their Seagrass Habitat in Northern Madagascar

Executive Summary: 

This preliminary study, conducted between June and October 2009, represents the first comprehensive survey of the dugong population and its habitat in northern Madagascar. It provided the means for piloting a low-cost, low-tech methodology, previously utilized with success in the Union of the Comoros, and only minor adaptations were necessary for its application in Madagascar, hence the resulting data are comparable.



A total of 80 interviews were conducted with fishers across four landing sites to collate information on dugong observations, threats, knowledge of laws and relevance in local culture. Nearshore seagrass surveys were also conducted in order to ground-truth potential seagrass areas identified using satellite imagery.

Results from the study show that although dugongs were present in large numbers in the past, the population has been in decline, particularly since the 1990s.

Deliberate hunting is no longer commonplace, instead accidental capture in gill nets poses the greatest threat to the continuance of the species in the area. The capture and slaughter of dugongs follows ancient traditions and involves various taboos.

Elders showed concern for this threatened resource and they represent not only a valuable and diminishing source of local knowledge but also a means to influence the opinions and behaviour of their communities. Their involvement in future dugong conservation initiatives will be intrinsic to achieving success and consensus amongst fishing communities.

The likelihood of seagrass presence was determined on a broad scale for the whole of northern Madagascar and will be used to prioritize areas for finer scale mapping.

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Implementing AgencyCommunity Centred Conservation (C3)

Activity start dateJune 2009
Activity end dateOctober 2009
CMS AppendixAppendix II
Taxonomic groupMarine mammals
Target regionAfrica
Target countryMadagascar
Final technical reportYes

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