Written by Ruth H. Leeney, with illustrations by Owen Williams and Ruth H. Leeney
‘The Dugongs of Bazaruto’ (and in Portuguese: ‘Os Dugongos do Arquipélago do Bazaruto‘) is an educational book about dugongs and their main habitat in Mozambique – the Bazaruto Archipelago and surrounding waters.
Dugongs were once common throughout the waters of East Africa and the western Indian Ocean, but have become very rare in this region. The last viable population of dugongs in East Africa lives in Bazaruto Archipelago National Park and the surrounding coastal waters, and numbers less than 400. Dugongs face a number of threats in Mozambique including illegal hunting, accidental capture in fishing nets, collisions with motorboats and the degradation or loss of the seagrass meadows where they feed.
Whilst working as the Research Coordinator for Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, I noticed that although dugongs are the flagship species for this marine park, there were no education and awareness-raising materials about dugongs available to the local communities. I decided to write a book to educate and engage local people in dugong protection. Produced with the support of the Save Our Seas Foundation, ‘The Dugongs of Bazaruto’ provides basic facts about dugongs, such as how long they live and what they eat. It also explains the main threats to dugongs, why they should be protected in Mozambican waters, and what local communities can do to help protect them. The book’s two narrators are Amélia, a young girl from the Bazaruto Archipelago, and her sister Maria, who is a park ranger on the islands. I hope that these two characters will highlight the important work being done by Bazaruto Archipelago National Park’s team of female rangers, and will encourage more girls and women to become involved in wildlife conservation.
The book was designed to be accessible to people of all ages and reading abilities, by combining easy-to-understand text with illustrations that reflect the life, culture and biodiversity of the Bazaruto Archipelago. Portuguese language copies of the book are being distributed to communities on the Bazaruto Archipelago and the surrounding mainland region by several local conservation NGOs, and a teacher’s guide with suggestions for further learning activities for school pupils has also been developed. It is my hope that the book will encourage both school students and adults to develop a fascination and sense of stewardship for these beautiful and shy marine mammals, with whom they share the Bazaruto seascape.
The book should not be reprinted without the permission of the author.