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OKINAWA DUGONG } Dugong dugong

RANGE: The Pacific and Indian oceans; the coastal waters of Okinawa, Japan, comprise the northernmost range

STATUS: the Okinawa dugong is protected as Endangered as a foreign species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

THREATS: Habitat loss from U.S. military activities and construction, noise pollution, and marine pollution

Dugongs, distant relatives of the manatee, can live for 70 years and grow to nearly 1,000 pounds. In the vibrant turquoise waters of Japan’s Henoko Bay, dugong herds once grazed peacefully on vast meadows of sea grass. But after decades of active U.S. military operations in the region, possibly fewer than 50 last dugongs now struggle to survive in Okinawa — once dubbed the “Galápagos of the East” for its rich biodiversity. The Center has used innovative legal tactics to secure new protections for the dugong, including suing the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the construction of a new American airbase in Henoko Bay — which led to a federal judge requiring the Department to consider impacts of the new airbase on the dugong in order to avoid or mitigate any harm. Unfortunately, the United States is now considering expanding an existing airbase near Henoko in dugong habitat. The Center is working hard to stop those plans.

Photo (c) Suehiro Nitta