Skip to main content

Go back to blog

6 Fun Facts About Dugongs

  • Monday 4th June 2018
  • Dugongs, Sea Life

Dugong eating lettuce at Sea Life Sydney

 Our team at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium think dugongs are unique and incredibly intelligent creatures. Check out these 6 fun facts about dugongs and decide for yourself!


Where in the world do you find dugongs?

The dugong is one of four species of the order Sirenia, a group of marine mammals that are strictly herbivorous meaning they eat only plants. They’re a tropical to subtropical species found in 37 different countries, however, Australian waters are home to one of the largest populations of dugong, with approximately 80,000 - 85,000 calling Australia home.


What do dugongs eat?

A Dugongs diet only consists of seagrass which is very rare, in fact so rare that it is the only completely marine mammal to have a diet like this. This is why Dugongs are often referred to as sea cows, because of their grazing habits. Their close relative, the manatee, also only eats plants but they can also be found in freshwater areas.

An adult dugong will eat up to 30 kilograms of seagrass a day which is equivalent to around 60 heads of lettuce!


Dugong relatives

Dugongs, also known as sea cows, are the only members of the Dugongidae family and their closest aquatic relatives are manatees.

Believe it or not, the closest land relative to the dugong is the elephant. Male dugongs grow tusks when they reach maturity. Female Dugongs also get tusks but these erupt in older females.


How Long can Dugongs Live? 

You can estimate a dugong's age by how many rings they have on their tusks, just like a tree. Dugongs can live up to 70 years so that’s a lot of rings!

How Long can Dugongs hold their breath?

Dugongs breathe in oxygen from above the surface of the water through their nostrils, a dugong can hold its breath for up to 11 minutes and dive up to 33 metres to feed.

Do Dugongs have good Eyesight? 

Dugongs don't have the best eyesight, but they make up for it with excellent hearing. Dugongs can communicate using barks, chirps, squeaks, trills and other sounds that can travel through water.


At SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium we are extremely lucky to have our resident dugong, Pig. Pig was rescued from Forrest Beach in Northern Queensland in 1998, at just under a month old by Sea World Marine Park. Dugong calves stay with their mothers for at least 18 months so without Sea World Marine Park hand-raising him, he would not have survived. The team at Sea World rehabilitated Pig and he was released back into the wild once he was old enough. Eight months later he was found again and had lost 30% of his body weight. He'd also been wounded from other male dugongs. It was then decided it would be best for Pig to stay in human care and have a dedicated passionate team looking after him.


Are Dugongs Endangered?

Dugongs are listed as vulnerable to extinction. With the expansion of the commercial ports, dredging coastal areas, shark nets, natural disasters such as cyclones (and much more), the sea grass beds that are dugongs sole source of food, are being wiped out. In the last 30 years it is estimated that dugong populations has declined 90%.


With Pig by our side as our dugong ambassador at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, we have raised over $40,000 for SEA LIFE Trust's protection and care of the species. With this money we assist with research into the health status of wild dugongs with the University of QLD and also with sick and injured Dugongs. For example: In February 2016 SEALIFE 

Sydney was involved in relocating a dugong lost in cold southern waters. We assisted with the rescue, transport, rehabilitation and release of the dugong into Moreton Bay, where there is a known population of between 900-1000 dugongs.


If you're keen to see Pig up close and find out more about how you can help the dugong species, visit him at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium's Dugong Island! There, you can see Pig from above the water and below in our incredible aquarium tunnel. 


Nowhere else in Australia are you able to get so close to the unique dugong, so come in and experience it for yourself. Get your tickets online and save!


Book Now

Save up to 25%

  • Price includes Digi Photo Pass with 8 digital photos included – valued at $26!
  • Get your ticket on your phone
  • Children under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult (18+)
  • Guarantee entry by booking online