Vietnam to host first Dugong Festival on Phu Quoc Island

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A file photo shows a dugong. Vietnam will hold a festival on Phu Quoc Island November 30, 2014 to increase public awareness about the protection of this endangered herbivorous marine mammal. Photo credit: WWF A file photo shows a dugong. Vietnam will hold a festival on Phu Quoc Island November 30, 2014 to increase public awareness about the protection of this endangered herbivorous marine mammal. Photo credit: WWF

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A festival will be held on Phu Quoc on November 30 to raise awareness about the protection of the Dugong, an endangered marine creature that lives in the waters around Vietnam’s largest island.
On Sunday morning, the Dugong Festival 2014 will kick off in the island's Duong Dong Town and will include a parade and dramatic contest designed to encourage participants to take part in saving the endangered mammalian marine creatures.
According to WWF, Phu Quoc and Con Dao are the only two marine habitats in Vietnam and were home to no more than 100 dugongs in 2003.
A herbivorous marine mammal, dugong (Dugong dugon) native to tropical coastal waters of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and southwest Pacific Ocean and having flipperlike forelimbs and a deeply notched tail fin.  They can grow to three meters long and weigh 450 kilograms.
The animals feed on sea grass and other marine plants. Due to their slow movements and large bodies, dugongs can easily get stuck in fishing nets where many drown.
This species is also intensively hunted not only for food but also for traditional medicine and jewelry.
The creature is classified as critically endangered in the Vietnam Red Book and listed as a vulnerable species in the IUCN Red Book.
The festival will be jointly-held by the NGO Wildlife At Risk (WAR), the Phu Quoc Marine Protected Area and the Phu Quoc District Department of Education and Training. About 800 people are expected to join the parade, including government officials, teachers, students, residents and tourists.
The event will begin and end at the Phu Quoc Cultural House after passing through several tourism sites. The Phu Quoc Cultural House will host a dramatic contest that will include performances from six marine conservation clubs. Special songs and dances from six secondary schools will also be performed at the festival.
Participants will commit to conservation by signing two dugong models.
“If everyone, from every walk of life, works together, then the dugong and our marine resources can be effectively protected for future generations,” said Do Thi Thanh Huyen, wildlife education manager at WAR.
In September 2012, WAR detected an illegal trade network of dugongs on Phu Quoc. Soon after the discovery, WAR officially requested the island authorities to crack down.

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