Saturday, April 4, 2020

D is for Dugongs (Folktales of Endangered Species)

Welcome to the 2020 A to Z blogging challenge! This year my theme is Folktales of Endangered Species. I am researching cool traditional stories about rare, fascinating animals - to raise awareness of what we might lose if we don't get our collective shit together. Enjoy!

Species: Dugong (Dugong dugon)

Status: Vulnerable (local populations, like the group around Okinawa, are critically endangered)

The Mermaid and the Tsunami
Okinawan legend

Legend says that on an evening like any other more than two hundred years ago, a fisherman from Nobaru village on Ishigaki Island caught a dugong in his net (dugongs around Okinawa are often called "mermaids"). The dugong begged him to let her go, and feeling sorry for her, the fisherman complied. Once she was freed, the grateful dugong told him there was a terrible tsunami approaching.
The fisherman ran home and quickly evacuated his village, sending a messenger to the nearby Shiraho village to warn them as well. The people of Shiraho however did not believe the hearsay of a dugong, and they stayed put. At dawn the terrible Meiwa Tsunami hit the island, and destroyed the villages. The people of Nobaru, thanks to the kindness of the fisherman and the warning of the dugong, were safe up in the mountains.

(In another story the dugong is caught by people and roasted, and while being roasted it calls a tsunami down on the village in revenge.)

Sources: Find information about this story here or read example stories here.

How can I help?

Join the petition to save the Okinawa dugongs here, and find more information about conservation efforts here.

Have you ever seen a dugong (or a manatee) in real life before?
Do you know any stories about them?


  1. A long time ago, we traveled on a trip to Florida, where my parents dove with manatees (one of the souvenirs I got on that trip was a manatee doll, which I believe I still have)

  2. I prefer the first version, where kindness and gratitude are important. Because I think that's an important lesson especially in today words, were we are often so self-centred.

    The Old Shelter - Living the Twenties

  3. Yes, me too I prefer the first version! Those animals looks like sea cows, sweet and peaceful. No need to catch them.
    D is for Denim

  4. I saw this species recently in a video . They called it a sea cow
    Interesting insights again

    Welfare unto all
    Rab rakha

  5. I have not seen one of these amazing creatures in real life, but I would love to. I think I prefer the first story where the fisherman is nice and is rewarded, rather than the revenge one where no-one wins.
    Tasha 💖
    Virginia's Parlour - The Manor (Adult concepts - nothing explicit in posts)
    Tasha's Thinkings - Vampire Drabbles

  6. I've seen the odd mermaid or two on the beach but never a dugong! I'm with the others; it's the first story for me.

    My A-Z tale!

  7. I like the first story too, for its gentleness and lesson in gratitude.

    Though I totally feel the roasted animal calling down a tsunami, the lesson from those types of folktales humans still haven't learnt well, sadly.

  8. Dugong looks like such a humble creature! Never seen one. Wish the villagers believed the fisherman.

  9. When my children were homeschooled we studied dugongs and manatees. My daughter "adopted" a manatee named Phillip for many years. Fascinating animals.

  10. I've never seen a manatee in real life just films- amazing creatures!

  11. The first tale seems more fitting for such gentle creatures. I've seen manatees while visiting a rescue and rehab center, and they are amazing, shy creatures. I feel in love instantly.

  12. Another fascinating creature in your A2Z. I can't help but notice the scars on her back.

  13. I first heard about dugongs when I was visiting my friend a few years ago. I asked her four year old daughter what her favourite animal was.
    "Dugong." she replied promptly.
    "What's that?" I asked my friend.
    I was shown a children's picture story book to the amusement of the four year old who couldn't believe an adult could be so ignorant!

  14. I have read that the sailors of the past used to confuse the dugongs for mermaids. Fascinating creatures and the corresponding tale.

  15. Such a beautiful animal! Enjoyed the tale :-)

    An A-Z of Faerie: Duergar

  16. Wow! I'd never heard of dugongs. At first glance, I thought it was a manatee. (When I visit relatives in Florida, we often go manataee-watching.)

    ~Tui Snider, @TuiSnider - Exploring Historic Cemeteries & Symbolism