The search for a dugong located in the Macleay River at Stuarts Point is being scaled down.
Authorities are still hoping to capture then relocate the animal to Sea World on the Gold Coast but as the days wear on hopes fade as they need warmer water to survive (the most southerly population in Australia is at Moreton Bay, Queensland).
The dugong has been spotted, and filmed (watch the video below), but catching these shy creatures is another matter entirely.
A second dugong, believed to be the mother, was found dead over a week ago and there are reports the pair had been in the Macleay estuary for up to six weeks.
In what local residents would be hoping is a tragic coincidence, a dead dolphin was found dead washed up in the same area.
Mary Taylor from Stuarts Point has her fingers crossed for the remaining dugong but is concerned at the recent deaths.
“Is there a link between the deaths or is it just a coincidence? Either way it’s tragic circumstances having two mammals die in close succession, and in Stuarts Point, a very rare occurrence.”
Vice president of ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) Shona Lorigan says it may be a coincidence or there may be potential contamination.
She stresses that an autopsy of the dead dolphin has been completed and the relevant authorities including the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have been notified.
“Is there a link between the deaths or is it just a coincidence?'
The dolphin has been identified as a male bottlenose and the worn condition of its teeth indicate it was of advanced age.
As the search is scaled down slightly ORRCA volunteers are looking south of the Stuarts Point footbridge in the hope perhaps the dugong is making its own way out to sea and on to warmer waters.
If you have any information contact ORRCA’s 24-hour hotline on 9415 3333.