Photo/IllutrationSerena, a female dugong, swims before a large crowd of visitors at Toba Aquarium on Sept. 15. (Takunori Yasuda)

  • Photo/Illustraion

TOBA, Mie Prefecture--Confetti flew on Sept. 15 as Serena, a female dugong, broke the world record for artificial rearing, having spent 31 years and five months at Toba Aquarium here.

Celebrations were in order on the day, which marked the 11,476th that the endangered marine mammal has called the aquarium home.

Among those taking part in the festivities was Yoshihito Wakai, 58, who was in charge of taking care of Serena when she first arrived at the facility.

"I want to continue looking after Serena as she enters a new realm in challenging the record of being raised artificially," said Wakai, who is now vice director of the aquarium.

Raising a dugong in captivity is very rare, with the Toba Aquarium housing the only one in Japan. The only other facility in the world with one is in Australia.

Serena was captured on Oct. 10, 1986, off the coast of Palawan Island in the Philippines after she became separated from her parent. She came to Toba Aquarium on April 15, 1987, when she measured 147.5 centimeters long and weighed 67 kilograms.

Serena, who is believed to be 32 years old, has since grown to 260 cm and 379 kg. She has a healthy appetite, consuming a total of about 30 kg of feed a day.

She broke the record that was held by the male dugong Junichi, which was also kept at Toba Aquarium, until his death on Feb. 10, 2011.