Dugong on the mend

Operation dugong: Merimbula the dugong is almost ready to be released after he was rescued and relocated from Merimbula Lake last week.

Operation dugong: Merimbula the dugong is almost ready to be released after he was rescued and relocated from Merimbula Lake last week.

Merimbula’s dugong is doing well in Sea World and could be released back into the wild within the next week. 

The dugong was rescued from Merimbula Lake on Thursday, January 21, in a huge operation between marine experts from Sea World, SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA), National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and even the Royal Australian Air Force. 

The experts united to rescue the dugong as they had noticed its health had deteriorated during the two months in which it resided in Merimbula Lake.  

They initially tried to capture the dugong on Wednesday but after several hours the dugong evaded capture and crossed the bar at Bar Beach heading out to sea. 

Thankfully he returned to the lake that night and the operation could continue. 

They caught the dugong, which they then named Merimbula, at around 9am and brought it to shore to assess its condition. The dugong was underweight and had skin lesions which vets believed was due to it suffering cold water syndrome. 

Once the all clear was given for it to be relocated the dugong was flown to the Gold Coast in a RAAF Hercules transporter. 

Video courtesy of Sea World

Sea World Director of Marine Science Trevor Long said Merimbula the dugong was improving and had been provided with constant care, including medicines to assist with his skin lesions, which are improving.  

Mr Long said they are hoping to release him in Moreton Bay on Tuesday, February 2. 

“Merimbula has been eating really well, we just can’t get enough sea grass for him. As long as all the tests for diseases come back clear and we know he won’t be a danger to the other dugongs he will be ready to be released very soon,” he said.

Merimbula has been identified as a male aged about 15 years old, so he now has a long life ahead of him as dugongs can live to around 70. 

“The welfare and wellbeing of the dugong was the team's highest priority and we would like to thank all parties involved for their assistance,” Mr Long said.

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