A combination of aerial surveys, community sightings and satellite tracking revealed distribution, habitat, relative densities and spatial use of individual dugongs in the Darwin region of the Northern Territory. Aerial surveys in both the wet and dry seasons estimated relatively low densities of dugongs. Most group sightings (73% of all sightings) and densities up to 0.54 dugongs km −2 occurred in one of the four blocks surveyed. This block contained the Vernon Islands and large macro-tidal algal rocky reefs. Two dugongs tracked using satellite transmitters were captured above these reefs and kept a close association with similar reef types during most of their tracking periods of 53 and 154 days. Tracking revealed that dugongs used multiple and distinct areas for periods of several days to over 80 days and utilised coastal sections of up to 300 km in length. This indicates that dugong management in the Darwin region requires the consideration of large spatial scales, multiple habitat types and rocky reef habitat. Community sightings were an important information source and revealed locations of dugongs not identified with either the aerial surveys or satellite tracking.
Australian Journal of Zoology – CSIRO Publishing
Published: Dec 22, 2008