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All Walks of Life are Shakin It for the Dugongs

What do you get when you put together 10,000 hits on YouTube, a groovy rock song about dugongs, a video camera, and people who are not afraid to dance for our rivers and coastal zones?

Check it out on!

Hundreds of people are dancing on YouTube to raise awareness of the plight of dugongs and other coastal zone and stream fauna being impacted by poor water quality, particularly evident as a result of the recent floods.

The brain child of International WaterCentre senior lecturer, Dr Peter Oliver, the Shakin’ it for the Dugongs Competition was an experiment in using the internet to generate enthusiasm and awareness of river health and the need to protect our coastal zones and their fauna. Peter wrote and first recorded the song Dugong Rock in 2000, and has been pleased to put it to work to help his dugong friends.

Peter Oliver awarded $500 prizes to the major winners:

  • Rainbow Beach Primary School at the school on Wednesday 24 August at 12.15pm. The whole school turned out to receive their prize.
  • Nefertiti Dancers at Scarness Beach, near Enzo’s Café, at Hervey Bay on Thursday 25 August at 12pm. The Nefertiti Dancers performed when they receive their cheque.

Dugong populations today are nothing like they used to be. Historical records indicate that the dugong population in the Great Sandy Strait and Hervey Bay may have once reached tens of thousands, but most recent estimates put the population at around 2,500. Huge herds of dugong were once reported in Moreton Bay, while now it is estimated there may only be 800 in the bay. Early settlers hunting dugong in large numbers and habitat decline have both affected their numbers. While they are now protected, one of the main threats to dugongs today is loss of seagrass, their primary food source, which is affected by the sediment and nutrients running off land and into our rivers and coastal zones.

In the Mary Catchment, the quality of water in the Mary River has a direct impact on the seagrass beds in the northern part of the Great Sandy Strait. Sediment, nutrients and salinity all need to be finely balanced to encourage healthy seagrass growth. These same aspects of water quality are important for endangered species in the freshwater section of the Mary River, such as Mary River Cod, Lungfish and Mary River Turtle. You could think of dugongs as indicator species, letting us know something of the health of the whole system.

The Shakin’ it for the Dugongs Competition has certainly helped to raise awareness of these issues and to get people talking. Entrants also explained how much fun it was putting together their video entries, regardless of whether they won a prize or not.

“All the town has been asking us what we were doing and why,” explained Paul Manttan, Principal of Rainbow Beach State School, whose entry won a major prize. The school’s video featured students dancing down the main street and playing drum kits and guitars on the beach. “It’s really helped raise awareness about dugongs and also about the school.”

In addition to Rainbow Beach State School, the other major prize winner was Nefertiti Dance in Hervey Bay, who were awarded not only for the number of hits on YouTube, but also for their creativity and effort. Both of these entries will receive a $500 prize donated by the International WaterCentre.

Nefertiti Dance has also found that dancing to Dugong Rock has generated lots of community interest. Jill, who organised the entry from the dance school, explained, “We performed the Dugong Rock at the Paddle Out for Whales in Hervey Bay and many people asked if we could teach the dance to them. They love it!”

Other winners will be receiving prizes for their efforts in the coming weeks. Competition organisers, International WaterCentre, Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee Inc, and SEQ Catchments wish to thank the following prize donors for their generosity: Ride on Mary Imbil Kayak and Bike Hire; Freedom Whale Watching, Hervey Bay; Peter Meyer Photography, Hervey Bay; Ferryman Cruises, Pumicestone Passage; Night Eyes Water and Land Carers, Pumicestone Passage; Peter and Ann Oliver, International WaterCentre; Noosa Integrated Catchment Association; Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee; and SEQ Catchments.



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