Dugongs and Dragons

Constrained on their landward edge by mangroves which lay at the base of one of the most intriguing landscapes in Indonesia, and at their seaward edge by coral reefs that provide economic value to local communities of Komodo National Park, lie the seagrass meadows of Komodo Island - some of the most extensive, diverse and finest habitats of seagrass to be found in Indonesia. In June 2008, The Nature Conservancy with help of WCS undertook some of the most detailed surveys of seagrass meadows in Komodo National Park, in an attempt to map their distribution for future marine resource management planning. The work will identify areas most important to these forgotten and rarely seen marine mammals that inhabit the underwater marine habitats of Komodo and beyond. In muddy sediments abutting mangrove forests grow the fibrous and largest of the species found, Enhalus acoroides, a perfect habitat for juvenile coral reef fish. In small embayments where light penetration is 'dungeon like' the conditions were perfect for the growth of the smallest of seagrasses, Halophila ovalis a nutritious species, highly concentrated with amino acids and carbohydrates, and low in fibre, and so favoured by dugong.  

Extensive Thalassia hemprichii beds stretching out to meet the coral reefs provide food for turtle species. These areas lie underwater adjacent to where the Komodo Dragon lives and support some of the last populations of dugong in the Indonesian archipelago. Less than a 1000 individuals likely remain in Indonesia but data on their distribution is poor. Dugong teeth are still used for ceremonial purposes in fishing villages across Indonesia although this practice is illegal. A dugong was encountered during the survey in waters off Komodo Island.