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Secret footage: dugong swimming in Henoko

The sea surrounding Okinawa is to be reclaimed to build a U.S. military base

Natsuko Shimabukuro Reporter for Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting

In the research conducted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau aircrafts (August 2007-November 2014) dugongs have been spotted 256 times around the Okinawan waters, of which Individual A was seen 143 times, B, 46, and C, 49. (Unknown: 18 times)

I showed the rare footage of the dugong in the ocean to Mr. Taro Hosokawa of the Dugong Network Okinawa, an organization that has long been active in protecting dugongs. When I initially told Mr. Hosokawa about the footage, he didn’t express much interest. Upon seeing the image, however, his expression softened and he broke into a smile.

“Wow, this truly shows that dugongs are living in the Okinawan waters. Unlike still images, it really is wonderful to see them alive,” Mr. Hosokawa said.

Mr. Hosokawa pointed out that the dugong in the footage was “Individual A” because of its trademark – a cut in his tail fin.

拡大Areas where dugongs Individual A, B and C were spotted (Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting)

A is a male adult and is believed to be living on the east coast of Nago, close to the planned new Henoko base. During the day, it is floating about the water surface, believed to be resting. Toward the evening, it moves over to the coral reefs near Henoko, where it was believed to be eating the seaweed.

There was more information on the footage that matched the still image. The dugong could be seen often with a sea turtle. The attached photographs perfectly captured the dugong swimming with the sea turtle or hugging it.

It is said that there are only three dugongs in this vast ocean. Could it be that they think the sea turtles are their friends out of loneliness?

“That is just human imagination,” said Mr. Hosokawa, laughing at me. He points out that dugongs have been spotted swimming with green sea turtles in areas including the Philippines. “Perhaps they consider sea turtles to be friends because they both eat seaweed,” Mr. Hosokawa said.

Furthermore, Mr. Hosokawa noticed another unique characteristic of the dugong after seeing the clear underwater footage – A had something that looked like a hump on the right side of its back.

拡大A dugong, known as Individual A, seen playing with a sea turtle offshore Kayo in May 27, 2013 (Report on Schwab Water Area Creatures)

A dugong mother and child living in the Okinawa waters

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