Photo/IllutrationA dead female dugong unloaded at a port in Nakijin, Okinawa Prefecture, on March 19 (Sei Ito)

  • Photo/Illustraion

NAKIJIN, Okinawa Prefecture--An endangered dugong found dead here is believed to be one of only three that had been confirmed in waters around the northern part of this southern island.

The dead female marine mammal, measuring nearly 3 meters long, 76 centimeters wide and 64 cm in height, was found floating near a breakwater off Unten fishing port in this village on the west side of the northern part of Okinawa’s main island on March 18.

The dugong bore scars and scratches on its head, face and pectorals, a village official said after examining it with the aid of the Okinawa Churashima Foundation, but it appears difficult to determine the cause of death.

The creature is highly likely one of the three dugongs that had been spotted around the northern part of Okinawa’s main island, according to the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

The bureau is monitoring the mammals, designated by the central government as a protected species, whose habitat could be affected by land reclamation work for the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture.

Okinawa is said to be the northernmost limit of the habitat of dugongs.

Environmentalists have argued that the relocation project would destroy their critical habitat and called for a halt to the land reclamation work.

“The government should immediately search for the remaining two dugongs and protect them, while determining the cause of the latest death,” said Mariko Abe, a senior official of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan.