Pisit CharnsnohThailand’s shy sea cows
To prevent dugongs disappearing from Thailand’s coastal waters, biologist Pisit Charnsnoh has engaged local people to protect the shy sea mammal and revive the coastal ecosystem so crucial to their own economic survival.
Herds of dugongs, or sea cows, once grazed on extensive seagrass meadows in the waters along Thailand’s southern coastline. Today, the large, slow-moving marine mammals are rarely seen there. For more than 30 years, Pisit Charnsnoh and his Yadfon (Raindrop) organization have mobilized the community by making this creature the focus of a grass-roots enterprise whose goal is to regenerate an entire coastline, its wildlife and livelihoods.
We help people to understand and love the dugong. They are then motivated to protect its habitat, and as the habitat improves, the number of fish increases, and people earn more income.
To save the dugong from extinction in Thai waters, Charnsnoh understood that it was necessary to involve local people in restoring its coastal habitat. Today, the region’s underwater seagrass meadows, the primary dugong habitat, are actively protected by nearby communities, and the mangrove forests connected to the meadows – mangrove forests are vital elements of the coastal ecosystems worldwide – now total more than 5,000 hectares.
Yadfon also conducts regular educational programmes in 13 schools, reaching some 2,000 students. Furthermore, the provincial authorities have developed a dugong conservation strategy and are implementing a ban on fishing techniques that are harmful to the species. Over the years, not only have the village-managed mangrove forests begun regenerating, the coastal fishery has revived, with the dugong population appearing more stable and fishermen’s nets filling once more.
People engaged in coastal restoration in 50 fishing communities
Hectares of mangrove forest conserved in 23 communities
Villages involved in community-based resource management, with 17 focused exclusively on dugong preservation