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Thailand

Libong Island

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Conservation benefit: Protection of 1,000–acre dugong seagrass habitat and 26 acres of feeding grounds for migratory birds for 10 years

Community benefit: Environmental education and cultural center

Date Approved: 02.2019

Seagrass

This project protects seagrass, which traps more CO2 than any other marine ecosystem, slowing global warming.

It’s estimated that only 200 dugongs, the large, slow-moving marine mammals that are cousins of the American manatee, still swim in Thailand’s waters. Their numbers have declined drastically because of habitat loss and fishing practices that trap the animals in fishing gear. Dugongs are particularly vulnerable to extinction because of their elephant-like lifespan—70 years or more—and slow rate of reproduction.

More than half of Thailand’s dugongs live near Libong Island, where they graze on seagrass. The island also gives refuge to thousands of migratory birds, of almost a hundred species, every year. It is a part of a large Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance). It is home to about 1,700 people, who make their livings from small-scale fishing, growing rubber trees, and tourism.

This project will protect dugongs and their habitat, as well as educate residents and visitors. The community will:

  • Make 1,000 acres of dugong habitat a no-take area. The area is now protected by law, but enforcement is lax.
  • Prohibit fishing practices that kill dugongs (for example, use of drift, trawl, and gill nets) and create a guard team to patrol the protected area.
  • Protect migratory birds by limiting the use of three feeding grounds.
  • Educate local people and visitors on dugongs and the seagrass ecosystem.

The community will use a Seacology grant to build a Seagrass and Dugong Education Center, to showcase local environmental and cultural knowledge. Displays will include traditional fishing gear, specimens of seagrass species, a dugong skeleton, and photos of migratory birds.

Project Updates

June 2020

Community members are very supportive of protecting the seagrass and migratory bird habitat, according to the project chairman. The feeding grounds are well protected; no one is allowed to disturb the birds, which live there from January to May. No boats are allowed in the demarcated seagrass area. Our Thailand field representative, Pisit Charnsnoh, reports that especially since the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions, dugongs are visible around Libong Island and small islands nearby.

Construction of the environmental center is going well and should be finished this month.

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