Merimbula the dugong has arrived safely on the Gold Coast and is currently being transported to Sea World.
Director of marine sciences at Sea World Trevor Long said everything has ran relatively smoothly and the dugong is doing well.
The dugong left Merimbula in a RAAF Hercules transporter at around 12.30pm after being captured in Merimbula Lake at around 9am this morning.
He was given a police escort to the airport where he was greeted by a huge crowd of people.
Around a dozen men were needed to lift the 400 kilo dugong from the truck and into the plane. During this time marine scientists continued to monitor the animal to ensure he remained calm and as comfortable as possible.
He is currently in a truck and is about 30 minutes away from Sea World where he will stay for a few weeks to be rehabilitated before being released into the wild.
The RAAF Hercules transporter has arrived in Merimbula to fly the dugong to Sea World.
The dugong has arrived at Merimbula Airport and is about to be moved onto the plane.
The dugong, which has been named Merimbula after the town it was found close to, has been assessed by vets who have said it is in a better condition than what was previously thought.
They have said it is on the good side of a poor condition, as at about 400kg it is underweight and possibly suffering from “cold stress syndrome”.
This syndrome involves the animal losing skin, usually on the tail, and is often found on manatees that move into colder waters.
Merimbula has been identified as a male aged about 15 years old, so has a long life ahead of him as dugongs can live to around 70.
The dugong swam out to sea during attempts to capture him yesterday but returned to Merimbula Lake around 8.30pm last night.
The second operation to capture him began at 6am this morning, before workers took to the water at 7.30am.
Nets had been set out, but the dugong evaded them again just like yesterday so workers performed a “jump capture” where two people jumped into the water and cast a net over the creature.
Merimbula was brought ashore to be assessed but has been returned to the shallow waters of the lake where workers aim to keep him comfortable.
A RAAF Hercules transporter is currently flying down the coast, expected to arrive in about 60 minutes, to collect the dugong and transport it to Sea World where it will be rehabilitated for a few weeks before released into Moreton Bay in Queensland.
Director of marine sciences at Sea World Trevor Long said this is the best possible outcome for the animal.
“This is only the start of this animal’s journey, the journey we believe will be a good one and the outcome which we believe will be a good one.
“I think there’s been a fair bit of speculation about what is best for the animal and I think that’s certainly understandable,” he said.
“I think as long as you understand that this animal would die if it was left here. It can’t cope with the cold water and it doesn’t have sufficient seagrass.”
Over the past two months experts from Sea World and Sydney Aquarium have been monitoring the dugong and Mr Long said when comparing images from four weeks ago to images taken earlier this week it was clear to see the dugong’s condition had deteriorated.
“The animal’s lost significant weight.
I think we’ve got it right at the right time, I think the animal will do well,” he said.
Sea World don’t plan to keep the dugong for too long but there are certain checks and procedures that they must comply with before it can be released into the wild.
The Queensland Environment and Protection Agency has donated a satellite GPS which will be attached to the dugong before it’s release to allow them to keep track of him in the wild.
There are only five dugongs in captivity in the world with two of them at the Sydney Aquarium.
The dugong was captured at 9am this morning, Thursday, January 21.
It is currently on an airbed with towels and is constantly having water over it as vets assess its condition.
Nearby children have volunteered to hold up a mat to keep the sun off it.
The vets hope to be able to give the all clear to relocate it.
It is uncertain whether the RAAF Hercules aircraft will return to transport the dugong.
The dugong at Merimbula has been brought ashore. It’s condition at this stage is unknown but marine animal specialists are currently looking at it at the lakeside.
However there are plans to move the dugong to Sea World for a few weeks rehabilitation before releasing it into the wild at Moreton Bay, Queensland.
On Wednesday, January 20 in a huge operation, staff from National Parks and Wildlife Service, marine vets from Sea Life, Sea World, water police and ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia), attempted to rescue the Merimbula dugong, whose health is deteriorating.
A RAAF Hercules transporter was flew into Merimbula airport in the hope that the captured dugong could be transported back to Queensland for care.
However after several hours the dugong evaded capture and crossed the bar at Bar Beach heading out to sea.