BY GEORGINA KEKEA
RIGHT in the center of the National Art Gallery area lies a dugong mother and calf. Unveiled yesterday, the dugong mother and calf symbolizes the recognition of this mammal in our society. While some might think less of this mammal, it in fact was significant to our people’s traditions, cultures, stories and village life.
Apart from this, the dugong also play a significant ecological role in maintaining coastal habitats. However, the dugong is now on the brink of extinction. Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) had classed the dugong as vulnerable to extinction on a global scale.
Speaking on Monday at the unveiling, Under Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Channel Iroi says the unveiling of the dugong sculpture is to raise public awareness and recognition of this important marine mammal.
“I am pleased that the Project has partnered with the Tourism and Culture sector through its National Art Gallery to ensure the installation of the sculpture here in such a strategic location. This is what we hope to achieve – that the public, our young school children, youths and visitors to the place will be able to view this sculpture and be curious to understand and learn more about it”, Iroi said.
At the same time, Chelcia Gomese of World Fish says dugongs are very important mammals for some tribes in the Solomon Islands.
“Like other unique animals we have in the Solomon Islands, we should be appreciating not only their relationships to their marine habitats but also looking at the relationship they have with humans and our relationship with them”, Gomese said.
She said it is hoped that with the mother and calf installed at the national art gallery, awareness around dugongs will also continue to grow.
She said the dugong mother and calf signifies that when mother and calf are protected, life will go on for the mammals.
“When children, artists, tourists, general public walk through this area every day and onward, we hope that the awareness and appreciation of these wonderful mammals will continue to grow”, Gomese said.
The project on dugong awareness is executed by the Mohamed Bin zayed Species Conservation Fund with financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).