A dugong calf that was rescued and rehabilitated after being found lost at sea in 2019 has been transferred to his new home.
Named Malquot, the male dugong calf travelled in a specially outfitted Marine Wildlife Rescue Vehicle to Yas SeaWorld in Abu Dhabi, specifically to their Research & Rescue Centre.
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s specialised marine species team, helped by experts from the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals Regional Office and Worldwide Zoo Consultants, rehabilitated the animal that was found unwell and abandoned by his mother in Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve.
He then received round-the-clock care in a special facility until he was in full health.
A team of experts will now take responsibility for his well-being at the newly opened sealife attraction.
“Ever since Malquot was rescued, and in collaboration with our partners, we have always ensured that he is well taken care of at all times," said Ahmed Al Hashmi, executive director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD.
"He will provide veterinarians, animal nutrition specialists, and animal care specialists the opportunity to better learn the needs and behaviours of such an enigmatic species.
“As there have been very few successful dugong rehabilitations around the world, Malquot will give both resident and visiting scientists the opportunity to study how he interacts with his environment and how he develops as he grows and reaches maturity."
Dugongs are shy creatures known as “sea cows” because they love ocean sea grass. They are effectively wiped out in many parts of the world as a result of pollution, getting tangled in fishing gear, hit by propellers or loss of food. Steller's sea cow – the dugong's nearest modern relative – was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, dugongs are classed as vulnerable.
But there are about 3,000 dugongs in Abu Dhabi’s waters, and they are mostly found near Bu Tinah Island, which forms part of the Marawah Biosphere Reserve and Al Yasat Marine Protected Area. It is the second-largest population of dugongs in the world, after Australia, and EAD leads efforts to protect the species.
"Malquot's journey has been a testament to the dedication and collaborative efforts of all organisations involved in preserving the well-being of our indigenous marine life," said Rob Yordi, general curator at the Research & Rescue Centre.
"As he continues to thrive in his new surroundings, his presence will serve as a valuable source of scientific knowledge to enhance our understanding of this species."