Endangered dugongs in Balikpapan gulf face extinction
The endangered dugong (Dugong dugon), or seacow, which is found in the Balikpapan Gulf, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, is at risk of extinction as its numbers have continued to decrease due to industrial expansion, a researcher says.
Stanislav Lhota, a researcher from the Czech Republic, said, “Massive industrial expansion, which includes waste and land expansions, has caused sedimentation in Balikpapan gulf waters.”
“Heavy metals and other pollutants, such as those from vessels’ lubricants, also threaten seaweed — the seacows’ food,” Lhota said recently.
Lhota cited noise pollution from vessels traveling in and out of the harbor as another factor worsening the dugongs’ habitat.
Busy traffic “was scaring the dugongs and forcing them to go far away,” he said.
The downstream area of Balikpapan gulf has witnessed rapid industrial expansion; the Balikpapan administration plans to broaden the expansion to the upstream area also.
“If this happens, sea grass along the Balikpapan coastline will disappear due to sedimentation and chemical pollution from industrial activities,” he said, adding that if the local administration turns the west side of the city into an industrial area. “Balikpapan will no longer have a healthy coast”.
In the long run, the planned expansion will also affect the habitats of coral, green turtles and irrawaddy dolphins, he added.
Dugong, one of the rarest animals in Indonesia, can be found from Madagascar and East Africa to India and Australia.
An estimated 1,000 to 10,000 dugong survive in Indonesian waters; however, that number is believed to have decreased significantly over the past few years.
In Kalimantan, dugong can be found in five locations: Balikpapan Gulf; Berau regency, East Kalimantan; Derawan island; Karimata island, West Kalimantan; Kotawaringin, South Kalimantan; and Kumai Gulf in Central Kalimantan.
Dugongs were declared extinct in 1996, but the Indonesia Rare Aquatic Species (RASI) spotted dugong in 2000 in Balikpapan gulf.