KOTA KINABALU - The recent discovery of a decomposing carcass has raised questions about the fate of a rare marine mammal believed to be found only at an island off Sabah's northern Kota Belud district.
The body of an adult 1.5m-long dugong was found by staff and guests of a resort at Pulau Mantanani at about 3pm last Friday.
Bembaran Beach Resort owner Zamzani Pandikar Amin said the dugong could be one of the 12 to 15 mammals that were found grazing on sea grass at the shallow reefs around the island.
"Sighting these animals is becoming rare compared to 10 years ago. This is a big loss of these unique creatures," he said, adding that, as far as he knew, Mantanani was the only known grazing ground for dugongs in Malaysia. "It's sad that the island is the only sanctuary for these special animals."
He said the dead dugong was rotting when it was found, indicating that it had died several days ago.
Zamzani said as there were no obvious external injuries on the carcass, it could have died from internal wounds.
He said among the possible causes was fish bombing which was still prevalent around the island.
"It could have been that someone had tossed in an explosive into the water and this creature happened to be nearby," Zamzani added.
He said this was the first sighting of a whole dugong carcass at sea, adding that dismembered parts of such an animal had been found washed ashore several years ago.