A couple of months back, people in the south-coast New South Wales town of Merimbula* noticed a new visitor to their waters. Maybe not surprising, given that Merimbula’s a popular tourist destination, but in this case the visitor was a dugong, around fourteen hundred kilometres south of where dugongs are supposed to be (how it got there is anybody’s guess). And closer observation suggested that it wasn’t doing all that well health-wise, because the local water is too cold, and there’s none of the seagrass dugongs eat.
So what to do? The locals called in a bunch of marine experts from the Gold Coast’s Sea World; Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium; the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia; the National Parks and Wildlife Service – oh yeah, plus the Royal Australian Air Force. These people got the dugong, by then known locally as ‘Doug’, out of Lake Merimbula (the above picture shows that major operation in progress), loaded it onto a plane, and flew it to Sea World for a few weeks of supervised rehabilitation, antibiotics, and feeding-up on local seagrass. And then yesterday, renamed ‘Merimbula’ in honour of the nice people who cared about it, it was released in Moreton Bay where it should’ve been all along.
* Merimbula may be a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Well, not if you’re a dugong.