MATI CITY -- Another sea cow or dugong (Dugon dugong) was found dead by residents of Barangay Dahican afternoon of March 31. This is the fourth dugong to have died in this picturesque coastal village in the past four months.

The baby male dugong estimated to weigh 30 kilograms was suspected to be sick that could have caused its death. Authorities said that no injuries from nets or sharp objects were found in the dead dugong.

Eva Botona, a Dahican resort owner, however claimed that the dead dugong bore a wound in the cranial portion. She said her suspicion is that the dugong was speared or bludgeoned or was again trapped in the nets and was just freed by those responsible for the laying of the nets.

Mati City Mayor Michelle Rabat lamented the death of another dugong. They however dispelled the possibility of a foul play like what happened in the previous three incidents of dugong deaths. The three past incidents where blamed on fishermen's nets that trapped the dugongs underwater and caused their deaths.

Personnel of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office ordered the dugong to be buried in the beach as they lack the equipment to transport the dugong. It was learned that the mammal was already decomposing when it was beached in Dahican. No autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death.

“The mammal's skin was already blistering, when it's in an advance state of decomposition an autopsy is not advisable,” explained Mati City Administrator Richard Villacorte.

Officials of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) earlier identified Mayo and Pujada Bays in Mati City as one of the feeding sites of dugongs in Southern Mindanao. The region is said to have the most number of dugong population in the Philippines due to the large presence of sea grass, main food of dugongs.

Villacorte said Pujada Bay has long been known as a place of refuge for sea animals.

“It's with the shape of the bay vis a vis with its proximity to Davao Gulf and Pacific Ocean that is why sick animals also come to the bay,” Villacorte said.

It's not all bad news for animal conservationists though, as the population of marine turtles is growing in Dahican. Villacorte said there are presently four nesting sites of turtles in the beach that is now being protected by residents there. He said each nesting sites is estimated to contain a hundred eggs.

Dahican, in local dialect, means nesting place. In the early 70's, Dahican was usually frequented by marine turles to lay their eggs. The activity however stopped sometime in the 80's when people started inhabiting the area.

The nesting of turtles in Dahican has returned few years back after the City Government started pushing for the protection of marine mammals in the area. The local government is contemplating on declaring Mayo Bay, where Dahican is located, as a protected area.

Mati has two protected areas at present – the Pujada Bay Protected Seascape and the Philippine Eagle Sanctuary.