Disturbing images of a dugong chained and caged underwater in Indonesia have been posted online.
Last March, a group of divers headed out to explore the waters surrounding the remote island in Indonesia. It’s an ideal place to swim and investigate; the crystal clear water is home to a variety of gorgeous sea life, and the weather is almost always warm.
What the divers discovered there instead was a nightmare. At the bottom of the ocean, just off the coast, were a series of underwater cages. Inside those cells were two dugongs, a rare marine animal that’s closely related to the manatee.
The adult dugong was reportedly chained in a cage while her calf was kept nearby in a separate enclosure. Photos and video of the animals were captured by a group of divers near the remote island of Kokoya, off North Maluku.
Video of the older mammal, which the divers thought was a mother, shows her floating limply around her small cage shackled by the tail.
The younger calf was caged but not restrained, the divers said.
The dugongs, which are considered a vulnerable species, were being held by local fishermen who wanted to charge the group to see the animals.
‘He asked for some money if we want to see the dugong or take a picture,’ one of the group, Delon Lim, told animal welfare site The Dodo.
It’s unclear how long the animals had been kept in the cages, but Lim said he thought they had been trapped for weeks.
‘The ropes are worn and torn. The scars and the wound on her tail are so deep. It was very heartbreaking,’ he said.
Another diver, Ryandito Mahendradani, said on his Instagram account that the larger dugong had severe injuries.
Shocked by what they saw, the group asked the fishermen to release the animals and – incredibly – they agreed.
‘When we left the island, the fisherman agreed to release them,’ Lim told The Dodo. ‘But since we were not so convinced he would, I posted the video to social media.’
The groups social media campaign, which included tweeting at Indonesia’s Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiasti, alerted authorities to the plight of the animals.
The next day, on March 14, the animals were released by officials.
Dugongs, which are also known as the sea cow, graze peacefully on sea grasses in shallow coastal waters of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans, according to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)