17 Mar 2011

Palau's President urges other Pacific nations to protect dugongs

8:06 am on 17 March 2011

Palau's President is urging other Pacific nations to find ways to protect dugongs found in their natural ocean habitat.

The dugong or sea cow was traditionally hunted in Palau for its red meat and for jewellery, often for royals, and have been in Palau for centuries.

Johnson Toribiong says Palau is increasing awareness in communities by establishing dugong sanctuaries outside every village, and changing the mindset of locals from hunting to protecting the species.

"They are endangered species in Palau and I believe that it would be a big loss to us if we were to lose one of the native indigenous inhabitants of our islands, they are part of our natural heritage."

Johnson Toribiong says Palau is the only area in the northern Pacific where dugongs can be found.

He says legend has it that the dugong originated from a woman who jumped in the sea and became a mermaid.