The dugong is a marine mammal, a cousin of the manatees. In Sri Lanka, the dugong suffers decline due to by-catch/direct killings and injuries from boat and net encounters. Ranil P. Nanayakkara, founder of the non-profit Biodiversity Education and Research, is working at the community level to reverse this trend and change the mindset of the people about dugongs and their seagrass ecosystem. To directly reduce the mortality numbers of this marine mammal, he is conducting workshops and street dramas, training locals to report on injuries and deaths, and closely monitoring both illegal activities and informant outcomes. Among the fishing community households, he is working to establish alternative livelihoods with higher incomes like selling wood carvings and paintings to eco-tourists, making cloth rugs and mats for local markets from the free remnants of cloth factories in the area; cultivating Spirulina algae for popular nutritional products; training tour guides; and staffing a rehabilitation/reintroduction center. He is also distributing legal fishing nets to 100 fishermen in 5 communities, providing locals with equipment to reduce the scope of harm due to existing fishing gear and retrieve old illegal gear for proper disposal. Researchers in Sri Lanka have submitted a proposal to Idea Wild, Fort Collins, to fund fuel for boats to monitor illegal fishing of dugong.
"Idea Wild works to equip, empower and activate the world's most promising environmental leaders to grow and strengthen the movement to conserve the planet's biodiversity." Idea Wild has vetted these researchers and our funds will be given to Idea Wild to support this project.
Thompson Valley chose this project to begin to introduce the club to international service. Although there will be no hands-on involvement, it is the plan to keep the club in contact with Idea Wild for ongoing presentations on the projects progress and to invite the researchers to participate in a meeting by Zoom. The secondary reason for this choice was for club members to see first-hand the work that is being done so to increase TRF club giving in the future.