Orphaned dugong conservation star
Found stranded on a beach in May at six months old, the ocean mammal has been receiving daily care from park officials, local conservation groups, and veterinarians at Phuket Marine Biological Centre. Her star took off after photos showing her being cradled by the vets went viral on social media, and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has posted frequent updates on her condition. Vet Pathompong Kongjit told AFP that Mariam—who now lives in the waters around Ko Libong island of Trang province—has become a symbol of the dire need for a cleanup in Thailand’s plastic-choked seas. “Mariam has ignited the interest among Thai people to care about marine animals, Thai seas and nature in general,” he said. But so far, her biggest challenge is feeding herself, as she has trouble digging out the seagrass buried in the ocean floor. “Mariam can only eat the protruding seagrass,” he told AFP, adding that she’s “getting better” at it. Female dugongs also usually breastfeed their babies while they are swimming—something the vets cannot do. “So we hold her while feeding her milk, and after that we have to get her to swim around to exercise her digestion system,” Pathompong said.
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