Dugongs, a relative of manatees, have scored a temporary victory against the mighty powers of the United States military. The military has plans to build a landing strip right over the habitat of the endangered dugong. As the dugongs are on the brink of extinction, any disturbance to their habitat or populations pushes them closer to that dreadful fate.
The dugong has won what amounts to a stay of execution from the
U.S. Department of Defense. A federal judge in San Francisco ruled
that the Department of Defense is in violation of the National
Historic Preservation Act for failing to consider the impacts of a
new airbase on the dugong in order to avoid or mitigate any
The judge ruled that the Department of Defense must gather
information and present it to the court within 90 days. They will
have to prove that their airstrip construction will pose no harm
against the endangered dugong.
The proposed U.S. military plan is to build an airstrip for U.S.
marines over a delicate reef in Okinawa. If built, the airstrip
would destroy the underwater ecosystem of Oura bay, Henoko - home
and feeding grounds of the last 12 dugongs left in Japan.
Greenpeace activists, supporters and locals have all rallied to
help the dugong and it appears their efforts may just save the
species. Thousands of activists wrote Japan's minister of defense
and minister of environment. Local activists have occupied the
coral reefs in peaceful protests against the proposed habitat
destruction. Greenpeace's ship the Rainbow Warrior arrived
in 2005 to halt the beginning stages of construction. And, in 2007,
the Greenpeace Esperanza visited the reef to highlight the
plight of the dugong.