A heartbreaking discovery was made by divers off the remote island of Kokoya, Indonesia, last week.
Divers swimming near the island found two dugongs, close relatives of the manatee, being held captive in underwater cages in the shallow ocean floor. The rare marine mammals appeared to be a mother and her calf held in separated cages. The mother was shackled to a rope by her tale while her offspring was confined by bars without any restraint.
The two are believed to have been caught by local fisherman to be used for profit with tourists. One of the divers, Delon Lim, caught the tragic scene on video and posted it on his Instagram account. Lim speculates that the creatures have been trapped for several weeks and were given minimal amounts of food. He told The Dodo:
“He asked for some money if we want to see the dugong or take a picture.”
The group of divers were permitted to enter the cages and see the animals. Among the divers was Instagram user Ryandito Mahendradani, who wrote in his video post on Instagram:
“We approached the fishermen to let it go and they said they would (we doubt it.) We were only at the island for one hour so we don’t know. To be honest, even after letting it go, we don’t know if they can survive on their own. We remembered that they’re going extinct. If you know anyone at the animal conservation please contact. There’s two of them, one is younger and not tied, just caged.”
The divers posted their video to call for help on Instagram and were promptly contacted by wildlife authorities requesting the location of the cages. Officials arrived the following day to rescue the dugongs and set them free.
Dugongs have a “Vulnerable” conservation status
and there are approximately 85,000 left in the wild in the waters around Australia which holds over 75% of the world’s population.