A team of Chinese researchers has announced the dugong, a mammal believed to have inspired tales of extinct mermaids in China.
People have only seen the mammal three times in the past five years in China’s coastal areas. Researchers haven’t noticed it since 2000.
Weighing almost half a ton, the animal is known for its tame features and has become vulnerable to overfishing.
The team of investigators who reported the animal’s disappearance interviewed nearly 800 people living in coastal areas, most of whom had not seen a dugong for an average of 23 years. So it was considered extinct, “the species can no longer guarantee its survival,” explained Heidi Ma, one of the scientists involved in the research, which joined the ZSL Institute and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The dugong still exists in other parts of the world where it faces similar threats. Its disappearance in China is considered a “catastrophic loss,” said Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London, quoted by the BBC.
In the early 20th century, the dugong was fiercely hunted by poachers for its skin, bones, and meat, but it was the angel’s tail that made it famous.