Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Little Mermaid At Sentosa

The Dugong amazes and amuses me.

When I was little, I was taught about animals just like all other kids. Somehow, no adult seemed to have mentioned about this animal called dugong. Dugong came into my knowledge pool only during my adulthood. Yes, go ahead and laugh but the fact remains that Dugong did not sit side-by-side with all the other animals in any of my childhood picture books.

When I first came across this animal, I was under the impression that it must be something rare, exotic and found in places far away from home. The fact it, some dugongs are actually found in the Straits of Johor, the tiny strip of water dividing Singapore from Malaysia.

For those who yet already know, dugong is a rather large marine mammal. It has other names like sea cow, sea pig and sea camel and is a close relative the manatee. Their main diet is seagrass which is why they are called the cow of the sea.

The word dugong came from the Malay word duyung, which means 'lady of the sea' or mermaid. When seen from the top, the body of a dugong can look like that of a human woman. It is believed that some sea-sick sailors could have mistaken dugong to be women in the sea with a tail fin and hence started the legend of the mermaid.

The dugong has a bulky and yet graceful body. The kind of combination you can find in plump ballerinas. They are slow-moving and generally have little protections against predators.

The mother dugong usually give birth to a single calf who clings to the mother for about 2 years. It is almost impossible for the baby to survive if its mother dies. Dugongs reproduce slowly and give birth only every 3-7 years. They can live up to 70 years.

Due to lost of their natural habitat, dugongs are highly endangered. Worldwide, there are about a handful of dugongs held in captivity and there is one in Singapore.

12 years ago, Gracie was found beside her drowned mother and was relocated to the Underwater World Sentosa with the approval of Singapore authorities. Today, Gracie, the sea cow, is living a thriving life there.

I have visited the Underwater World Sentosa several times and Gracie never failed to put a smile on my face.

If you have yet to know what on earth I am describing, go and meet Gracie at the Underwater World this Lunar New Year. For the first time, visitors will be able to interact with Gracie in a meet-and-greet session to celebrate her birthday and the Year of the Ox

If I have nothing better to do during the coming festival, I might just pop by and meet the sea cow.

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1 comment:

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