Photo taken in Marsa Alam, Egypt


Photo taken in Marsa Alam, Egypt

Photo by: Sven Gruse / EyeEm

Sven Gruse / EyeEm

Manatee’s Cousins Have Vanished from the Ocean

Dugongs, the peaceful ‘sea cows’ of the ocean have been declared functionally extinct in China. The vegetarian mammal has vanished from the coastlines of Asia and Africa.

August 30, 2022

Dugongs are a close relative of the manatee. They share a similar plump figure and paddle-like tail, which inspired mermaid mythology. So many people have mistaken dugongs for mermaid sightings that the animal was given the scientific name Sirenia, reminiscent of the sirens from ancient Greek mythology.

Now, a new study has declared these mermaid doppelgangers functionally extinct in China. A Dugong hasn’t been spotted since 2008. The last recorded sighting by Chinese officials was in 2000.

Photo Taken In Marsa Alam, Egypt


Photo Taken In Marsa Alam, Egypt

Photo by: Sibylle Malinke / EyeEm

Sibylle Malinke / EyeEm

This marks the first-reported functional extinction of a large vertebrate in China, whose marine life faces overfishing and habitat loss.

The study interviewed almost 800 fishermen to come to the conclusion that “dugongs have experienced rapid population collapse during recent decades and are now functionally extinct in China.”

“Functional extinction” means that even if there are a few dugongs still living off China’s coast, their numbers are too small to maintain a viable population.

Adult dugong swimming and feeding in the shallow water of Abu Dhabab in Marsa Alam, Red sea, Egypt


Adult dugong swimming and feeding in the shallow water of Abu Dhabab in Marsa Alam, Red sea, Egypt

Photo by: Sunphol Sorakul

Sunphol Sorakul

There are still about 100,000 dugongs living in the coastal waters of 40 other countries, including Japan, but the results of the finding do not bode well for them. “It’s a sad story,” said Helene Marsh, a professor of environmental science, in an interview. “I don’t think it’s going to be the last place where people can conclude that dugongs are functionally extinct.”

These gentle giants move slowly, walking on their pectoral fins to graze on sea grass in the shallow coastal waters of Asia and Africa. Since the advent of motor boats, dugong populations have suffered many accidental deaths and injuries.

“Their absence will not only have a knock-on effect on ecosystem function, but also serves as a wake-up call… a sobering reminder that extinctions can occur before effective conservation actions are developed,” the study said.

Next Up

How to Help Florida’s Imperiled Manatees

One morning earlier this spring, a young male manatee was found stranded, starving, and distressed on the beach of the Palm Coast.

The Mission to Rehabilitate Orphaned Manatees

Florida manatees are dying in record numbers from starvation. Critical care rescue and rehabilitation centers are running out of room. Georgia Aquarium has joined the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) to provide additional expert care and facilities for manatees in need.

Tuna Conservation is Working

Two bluefin, a yellowfin, and an albacore tuna species are no longer critically endangered — surprising scientists.

Giant Pandas are No Longer Endangered

After decades of work trying to save the giant panda, Chinese officials have announced the species is no longer endangered.

World Oceans Week is Making a Big Splash

Dive into World Oceans Week with the Explorers Club as they celebrate the wonders of the earth's oceans and share cutting-edge research in marine technology, conservation, and beautiful underwater photography.Learn more about all the events happening this week from June 5-June 11 at

Whale and Krill Populations are the Secret to Healthier Oceans

Oceans rely on their largest species, especially whales, to recycle and regenerate ecosystems. Studies at Stanford University identify the whale as an animal that recharges its own food sources and recycles carbon. Now researchers think they have found a way to seed plankton and krill numbers that will boost whale populations and restore fading sea life.

Protecting Pink Dolphins and Piranhas Deep in the Amazon Jungle

Deep in the Amazon jungle, almost a two hour boat ride from the nearest town, lies a complex wetland system where pink dolphins, black caiman, exotic birds, piranhas, and endangered fish live.

New Zealand's Sea Lions Have Returned: Crashing Soccer Games, Golf Courses, and Public Pools

One of the world’s rarest sea lion species was driven into near extinction after being targeted by hunters. Now, New Zealand sea lions are repopulating the coasts– surprising locals in unexpected places.

Environmental Initiatives Offer Hope for Critically Endangered Spider Monkeys

How one organization’s community-centric approach to conservation created a new generation of environmental activists.

It's a Girl! Very Rare Sumatran Rhino Born at Sanctuary

In a triumph for the conservation world, a rare Sumatran rhino calf has been born at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Way Kambas National Park, Indonesia.