Divers Find Captive Sea Creatures, Use Social Media To Set Them Free

While diving in Indonesia, a group of activists came across two "sea cows" living in deplorable conditions and used social media to create change.

Credit: Lim

Credit: Delon Lim


While diving near the remote island of Kokoya in Indonesia, a group of divers made a disturbing discovery. Reportedly, two dugongs – rare marine mammals which are closely related to manatees – were trapped inside of cages on the shallow ocean floor.

One of the divers, Delon Lim, noted that the two “sea cows” appeared to be a mother and her calf held in separate cages. The younger dugong was free to float in her cage, but the adult was bound by a rope which wrapped around her tail.

According to The Dodo, a fisherman had caught the two marine mammals and kept them in captivity to rake in extra money.

Said Lim:

“He asked for some money if we want to see the dugong or take a picture.”

The activist believes the dugongs were held for at least a few weeks.

“It seems so. The ropes are worn and torn. The scars and the wound on her tail are so deep. It was very heartbreaking,” he said.

The divers played along and entered the cages to capture photos and video of the unimaginable ordeal. Some of their posts on social media follow:

Nemu makhluk malang ini saat surface interval di Pulau Kokoya (https://goo.gl/maps/vwuRhtXGL8q). Dugong ini ditangkap, diikat dan dikurung dengan makanan seadanya. Kondisi ekor yg diikat luka parah. kita sudah melakukan pendekatan ke nelayan agar dugong tangkapan ini dilepas dan dia sudah bersedia (walaupun kita sendiri ragu). Karena cuma sejam di pulau tsb, kita tdk tau dilepas beneran atau ngga. Sebenarnya dugong yg stress ini jika dilepas jg belum tentu bisa survive. Mengingat hewan ini tergolong terancam punah, jika ada yg punya kenalan di balai konservasi mungkin bisa dibantu forward dan ditangani. Dugongnya ada dua ekor, satu yg lebih kecil tidak terikat namun dikurung di jaring yg berbeda. Anyone, please help…. *update : sudah dilepaskan dibantu oleh mentri Susi*

A video posted by Ryandito Mahendradani (@rmahendradani) on

Before they left, they asked the fisherman to let the animals go, as dugong are a protected species vulnerable to extinction and because no animal deserves to live in a cage.

“When we left the island, the fisherman agreed to release them,” Lim said. “But since we were not so convinced he would, I posted the video to social media.” 

The other divers posted their footage and photos, as well. Thanks to their efforts, wildlife authorities contacted Lim within hours, requesting to know the locations of the cages. The very next day, officials descended to where the animals were trapped and set them free.

Who says a small group of people – or even one individual – can’t have a powerful effect on the world? These divers saw something that was unjust and raised their voice to call for change. Thanks to them, the two dugongs have found their freedom again.

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